What is 3GPP Release 17?

What is 3GPP Release 17? When will it be released? What are its key features?

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Nov 27, 2021

3GPP Release 17 is the next official release for the 5G Standard. The Release 17 from 3GPP is expected to be completed in March 2022. It is the successor to Release 16 and is expected to be one of the most versatile releases in the history of 3GPP with significant enhancements in the Next-Generation Radio Access Network (NG-RAN) and 5G Core Network (5GC). It will also enhance IoT and IIoT, automation, and many more use cases. The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is a consortium of various standards and organizations for developing protocols for mobile telecommunications.

We have listed and discussed five of the most important 3GPP Release 17 updates.

  1. Reduced Capability (RedCap) Devices
  2. New Radio (NR) Sidelink Enhancements
  3. UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Enhancements
  4. Improvements to 5G RAN
  5. Enhancement in 5G IIoT

Reduced Capability (RedCap) Device

The new Reduced Capability (RedCap) device, also referred to as NR Light, along with its coverage improvements and new support for satellite communication standards will have a positive impact on long-term IoT business strategies.

RedCap devices will result in a new, less complex NR device for higher-end IoT applications. They will offer faster data transmission speeds than Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies like Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE Machine Type Communication (LTE-M). These devices will be significantly less expensive than the multi-gigabit NR devices being deployed albeit with slower speeds.

RedCap will reduce the cost of devices and enable companies to build systems with Half-Duplex Frequency Division Duplex (HD-FDD) communications. Unlike Full-Duplex FDD (FD-FDD) communications, where a device and cellular base station can transmit data to each other at the same time, with HD-FDD only the device or the cellular base station can transmit data at a specific time. Although HD-FDD can reduce data transmission speeds, it greatly simplifies (and thus reduces the cost) of the Radio Frequency (RF) design of multi-band RedCap devices.

New Radio (NR) Sidelink Enhancements

Sidelink services allow devices to discover and communicate with one another at extremely high data rates and low latency. They are ideal for peer-to-peer gaming and streaming services as well as enhanced AR, VR, and other wearable device communications. 

With Release 16, the focus was on the physical layer, protocols, and its functionalities for different cast types i.e., broadcast, unicast, and groupcast. It also boosted Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) services by developing platooning, advanced driving, extended sensor and remote driving applications. Release 17 will primarily focus on NR sidelink enhancements to support higher reliability for V2V service, power saving features for Pedestrian/Vulnerable Road Users, commercial D2D use-cases etc.

UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Enhancements

In Release 17, 3GPP will work towards enhanced requirements for UAV to benefit its commercial services. Many functional and application aspects such as communication latency, reliability, and mobility requirements like mapping, navigation, photographs, videography along with the communication towards the UAV Traffic Manager (UTM) or cloud servers will be in focus with this release. 


A 5G Radio Access Network utilizes both mid-band and mmWave frequencies to provide wireless connectivity for devices to enable incredible applications. 3GPP Release 17 continues the trend of Release 16 and includes enhancement in physical layer, radio protocol and radio architecture. Work on the physical layer in RAN will start at the beginning of 2022, whilst radio protocol and architecture work will start in the 2nd quarter.

Enhancement in 5G IIoT

In Release 17, the 5G system will expand support for Time Synchronization and Time Sensitive communications for IIoT applications. The 5G System architecture enables any Application Function (AF), in the same or different trust domain, to provide its requirements for quality of service (QoS), traffic characteristics for QoS scheduling optimization, time synchronization activation and deactivation.

Click here to visit the official Release 17 Page on the 3GPP website.