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Unveiling the Blueprint of 5G: A Comprehensive Guide to Key 3GPP Specifications


May 5, 2024 , , , , , , , ,

With promises of lightning-fast speeds, ultra-low latency, and ubiquitous connectivity, 5G is poised to transform industries, empower consumers, and redefine the very fabric of our digital existence. But behind the buzzwords and hype lies a complex ecosystem of standards, protocols, and specifications that form the backbone of 5G networks. Developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), these specifications provide the blueprint for 5G New Radio (NR), the 5G Core network, and a myriad of other essential components that make up the 5G landscape.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve deep into the world of 5G, unraveling the mysteries of key 3GPP specifications that underpin the next generation of mobile connectivity. From the intricacies of NR radio interfaces to the architecture of the 5G Core network, we explore the technical foundations that enable the seamless delivery of 5G services and experiences.

Here’s a summary of key 3GPP specifications relevant to 5G NR and the 5G Core, along with their specification numbers:

5G New Radio (NR):

  • 3GPP TS 38.1xx, 38.2xx Series This series includes specifications related to the NR radio interface. Key specifications in this series include:
    • TS 38.101 NR; User Equipment (UE) radio transmission and reception.
    • TS 38.104 NR; Base Station (BS) radio transmission and reception.
    • TS  38.201  NR; Physical layer; General description

    • TS  38.202  NR; Services provided by the physical layer

    • TS  38.211  NR; Physical channels and modulation

    • TS  38.212  NR; Multiplexing and channel coding

    • TS  38.213  NR; Physical layer procedures for control

    • TS  38.214  NR; Physical layer procedures for data

    • TS  38.215  NR; Physical layer measurements

  • 3GPP TS 38.3xx, 38.4xx Series: This series encompasses NR overall architecture, including network protocols and procedures. Key specifications include:
    • TS  38.300 NR; NR and NG-RAN Overall description; Stage-2

    • TS  38.304  NR; User Equipment (UE) procedures in Idle mode and in RRC Inactive state

    • TS  38.305  NG Radio Access Network (NG-RAN); Stage 2 functional specification of User Equipment (UE) positioning in NG-RAN

    • TS  38.306  NR; User Equipment (UE) radio access capabilities

    • TS  38.307  NR; Requirements on User Equipments (UEs) supporting a release-independent frequency band

    • TS  38.314  NR; Layer 2 measurements

    • TS  38.321  NR; Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol specification

    • TS  38.322  NR; Radio Link Control (RLC) protocol specification

    • TS  38.323  NR; Packet Data Convergence Protocol (PDCP) specification

    • TS  38.331  NR; Radio Resource Control (RRC); Protocol specification

    • TS  38.34   NR; Backhaul Adaptation Protocol (BAP) specification

    • TS  38.351  NR; Sidelink Relay Adaptation Protocol (SRAP) Specification

    • TS  38.355  NR; Sidelink Positioning Protocol (SLPP); Protocol Specification

    • TS  38.401  NG-RAN; Architecture description

    • TS  38.41   NG-RAN; NG general aspects and principles

    • TS  38.411  NG-RAN; NG layer 1

    • TS  38.412  NG-RAN; NG signalling transport

    • TS  38.413  NG-RAN; NG Application Protocol (NGAP)

    • TS  38.414  NG-RAN; NG data transport

    • TS  38.415  NG-RAN; PDU session user plane protocol

    • TS  38.42   NG-RAN; Xn general aspects and principles

    • TS  38.421  NG-RAN; Xn layer 1

    • TS  38.422  NG-RAN; Xn signalling transport

    • TS  38.423  NG-RAN; Xn Application Protocol (XnAP)

    • TS  38.424  NG-RAN; Xn data transport

    • TS  38.425  NG-RAN; NR user plane protocol

    • TS  38.455  NG-RAN; NR Positioning Protocol A (NRPPa)

    • TS  38.46   NG-RAN; E1 general aspects and principles

    • TS  38.461  NG-RAN; E1 layer 1

    • TS  38.462  NG-RAN; E1 signalling transport

    • TS  38.463  NG-RAN; E1 Application Protocol (E1AP)

    • TS  38.47   NG-RAN; F1 general aspects and principles

    • TS  38.471  NG-RAN; F1 layer 1

    • TS  38.472  NG-RAN; F1 signalling transport

    • TS  38.473  NG-RAN; F1 Application Protocol (F1AP)

    • TS  38.474  NG-RAN; F1 data transport

    • TS  38.475  NG-RAN; F1 interface user plane protocol

5G Core:

  • 3GPP TS 23.501: System Architecture for the 5G System; This specification provides an overview of the 5G system architecture, including network functions, interfaces, and protocols.
  • 3GPP TS 23.502: Procedures for the 5G System; This specification details procedures related to the 5G system, including registration, session management, mobility management, and handover.
  • 3GPP TS 23.503: Policy and Charging Control Framework for the 5G System; Stage 2. This specification outlines the policy and charging control framework for the 5G system, including policy control functions, charging architecture, and interfaces.
  • 3GPP TS 29.5xx Series: This series covers interfaces and protocols for the 5G Core network. Key specifications include:
    • TS 29.500    5G System; Technical Realization of Service Based Architecture

    • TS 29.501  5G System; Principles and Guidelines for Services Definition

    • TS 29.502  5G System; Session Management Services

    • TS 29.503  5G System; Unified Data Management Services

    • TS 29.504  5G System; Unified Data Repository Services

    • TS 29.505  5G System; Usage of the Unified Data Repository services for Subscription Data

    • TS 29.507  5G System; Access and Mobility Policy Control Service

    • TS 29.508  5G System; Session Management Event Exposure Service

    • TS 29.509  5G System; Authentication Server Services

    • TS 29.51   5G System; Network function repository services

    • TS 29.511  5G System; Equipment Identity Register Services

    • TS 29.512  5G System; Session Management Policy Control Service

    • TS 29.513  5G System; Policy and Charging Control signalling flows and QoS parameter mapping

    • TS 29.514  5G System; Policy Authorization Service

    • TS 29.515  5G System; Gateway Mobile Location Services

    • TS 29.516  5G System; Interworking between 5G Network and external Data Networks

    • TS 29.517  5G System; Application Function Event Exposure Service

    • TS 29.518  5G System; Access and Mobility Management Services

    • TS 29.519  5G System; Usage of the Unified Data Repository Service for Policy Data, Application Data and Structured Data for Exposure

    • TS 29.52   5G System; Network Data Analytics Services

    • TS 29.521  5G System; Binding Support Management Service

    • TS 29.522  5G System; Network Exposure Function Northbound APIs

    • TS 29.523  5G System; Policy Control Event Exposure Service

    • TS 29.524  5G System; Cause codes mapping between 5GC interfaces

    • TS 29.525  5G System; UE Policy Control Service

    • TS 29.526  5G System; Network Slice-Specific and SNPN Authentication and Authorization services

    • TS 29.531  5G System; Network Slice Selection Services

    • TS 29.575  5G System; Analytics Data Repository Services

    • TS 29.576  5G System; Messaging Framework Adaptor Services

    • TS 29.577  5G System; IP Short Message Gateway and SMS Router For Short Message Services

    • TS 29.578  5G System; Mobile Number Portability Services

    • TS 29.579  5G System; Interworking MSC For Short Message Services

    • TS 29.58   5G System; Multicast/Broadcast Service Function services

    • TS 29.581  5G System; Multicast/Broadcast Service Transport Services

These specifications form the foundation of the 5G NR and 5G Core networks, providing detailed guidelines for the design, implementation, and operation of 5G systems.

In addition to the specifications related to 5G New Radio (NR) and the 5G Core network, there are several other relevant 5G specifications developed by 3GPP. Here’s a summary of some of these specifications:


  • 3GPP TS 33 Series: This series addresses security aspects of 5G networks, including specifications for security architecture, procedures, algorithms, and protocols to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of 5G services and data.

Conformance Testing:

  • 3GPP TS 38.5xx: 3GPP-defined conformance testing. It defines conformance testing procedures and test cases to ensure compliance with 3GPP specifications for NR equipment.
    • TS38.508-1 5GS; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Part 1: Common test environment

    • TS38.508-2 5GS; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Part 2: Common Implementation Conformance Statement (ICS) proforma

    • TS  38.509  5GS; Special conformance testing functions for User Equipment (UE)

    • TS  38.521-1 NR; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Radio transmission and reception; Part 1: Range 1 standalone

    • TS  38.521-2 NR; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Radio transmission and reception; Part 2: Range 2 standalone

    • TS  38.521-3 NR; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Radio transmission and reception; Part 3: Range 1 and Range 2 Interworking operation with other radios

    • TS  38.521-4 NR; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Radio transmission and reception; Part 4: Performance

    • TS  38.521-5 NR; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Radio transmission and reception; Part 5: Satellite access Radio Frequency (RF) and performance

    • TS  38.522  NR; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Applicability of radio transmission, radio reception and radio resource management test cases

    • TS  38.523-1 5GS; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Part 1: Protocol

    • TS  38.523-2 5GS; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Part 2: Applicability of protocol test cases

    • TS  38.523-3 5GS; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Part 3: Protocol Test Suites

    • TS  38.533  NR; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; Radio Resource Management (RRM)

    • TS  38.551  NR; User Equipment (UE) Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) Over-the-Air (OTA) performance; Conformance testing

    • TS  38.561  NR; User Equipment (UE) conformance specification; UE TRP (Total Radiated Power) and TRS (Total Radiated Sensitivity) requirements and test methodologies for FR1 (NR SA and EN-DC)

These specifications play crucial roles in shaping the overall architecture, functionality, security, and management aspects of 5G networks, ensuring interoperability, reliability, and performance across diverse use cases and deployment scenarios.


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