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Developments in the telecommunications industry in terms of fifth generation networks are happening at an accelerated pace now that we're getting closer to the end of 2018 - a deadline that some telcos gave for 5G deployment. The successful completion of the first implementable Release 15 5G New Radio (NR) specifications was announced in December 2017 at the 3GPP TSG RAN Plenary Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, and last June, industry players announced the official approval of the "5G standalone" specifications.

The completion of SA specifications which complements the NSA specifications not only gives 5G NR the ability of independent deployment, but also brings a brand new end-to-end network architecture, making 5G a facilitator and an accelerator during the intelligent information and communications technology improvement process of enterprise customers and vertical industries. New business models will be enabled and a new era where everything is interconnected will be opened up for both mobile operators and industrial partners.

"The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision. 5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G," said Balassa Bertényi, chairman of 3GPP TSG RAN at the announcement of the historic milestone.

Erik Guttman, chairman of 3GPP TSG SA, added, "The agreed completion of the stage 3 freeze milestone for the 5G standalone system has great significance. The 5G System specification has now reached its official stage of completion, thanks to the intense efforts of hundreds of engineers over the past three years. A special acknowledgment is due to those who led this remarkable effort in diverse committees."

According to Guttman, 5G promises a broad expansion of telecommunications, as an ever more central component of our economies, societies and individual activities. The 5G System opens the way for commercialization of services based on the New Radio and 5G Core Network and their advanced extensible capabilities. The new system provides the foundation for ongoing specialization for support of new business sectors, for unlike 4G and past generations, 5G supports the very specific requirements and individual service characteristics of diverse communications.

3GPP activities have already begun to leverage the 5G system to realize opportunities in areas such as industrial automation. This activity will intensify in the months and years to come, in increasingly many sectors, all on the foundation of the work that has been achieved on this occasion.

However, amid all of this excitement, the importance and impact of regulations should be taken into consideration, for they can highly affect the benefits of 5G technology. The best regulatory framework is one that encourages new advancements while also protecting the environment. Instead of putting up barriers to a technology's development that can have negative repercussions on the whole industry, regulations should help promote them while preserving the industry and environment.

A recent study commissioned by Accenture and CTIA states that curbing the current delays in installations of small cellular infrastructure could generate tens of billions in economic development - a 12-month reduction in current timelines would translate to an additional $100 billion for the US economy over the next three years.

In April 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order containing sweeping regulatory changes to accelerate the deployment of next generation wireless services. The order removes significant regulatory barriers to wireless infrastructure deployment and revises existing processes to expedite environmental and historic preservation review.

The order eliminates the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) for certain small wireless network facilities. Advanced 5G wireless networks will rely on a high quantity of small antenna systems deployed in close proximity to each other rather than on traditional cell towers or monopoles separated by great distances.

With this move, the FCC aims to accelerate 5G deployment by reducing impediments hampering the process, thus allowing telcos to move swiftly towards 5G capacity and insuring coverage in rural areas.

Small cells are the future of the next generation 5G wireless applications. That is why they have to be ubiquitous in order to provide reliable coverage and enable a new generation of connected devices. The new 5G "small cell" systems can often be co-located with existing wireless facilities or placed on existing structures such as telephone poles or street lamps and do not pose the same degree of environmental or historic disruptions as larger facilities.

Further actions to alleviate deployment burdens might follow soon in order to expedite 5G deployment as soon as possible. These changes are intended to facilitate the introduction of advanced consumer and commercial devices, and services and systems that will rely on wireless connectivity, including a wide range of "smart" technologies, unmanned vehicles, internet of things, augmented reality and artificial intelligence-driven advancements.