Networking Research

Working Together: the IETF and 3GPP on 5G

By: Alissa Cooper

Date: July 5, 2017

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In June 2017, IETF Chair Alissa Cooper participated at the 3GPP plenary meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA. At the invitation of Georg Mayer, the 3GPP liaison to the IETF, she both attended meetings of 3GPP’s radio access network and system architecture groups, and kicked off the organization’s new Wednesday Speaker Club series with a discussion of how 3GPP and the IETF can cooperate on 5G standardization.

The push towards the next generation of wireless networking technology has been gaining attention and spurring new work across the industry, standards developing organizations (SDOs), and open source projects. 3GPP participants are investing tremendous effort to define and prioritize 5G requirements to help bring this technology to fruition. They are also working against very tight timelines—the initial set of 5G standards is due to be completed by June 2018. It is therefore both timely and important to identify whether dependencies between 5G and IETF work exist, as well as to identify mechanisms to ensure smooth collaboration.

The IETF and 3GPP have a long history of working together and many successes to build on, including experiences with SIP/IMS, EAP-AKA, and Diameter. Because 5G encompasses a broader swath of individuals than those who have been involved in previous joint efforts, Cooper spent part of her time at the meeting sharing how the IETF works, examples of the IETF’s focus on broadly deployable Internet technology, and what the organization works on. She highlighted areas of existing IETF work that may be relevant in the 5G context, including work on data models, service chaining, deterministic networking, and QUIC. She also engaged with 3GPP participants around specific strategies to help the two organizations collaborate.1

The Speaker Club Q&A focused on the potential and practicalities of improving collaboration. Topics included the need for technical experts from each group to engage directly with each other (in addition to the existing liaison managers working in both directions); opportunities to provide more introductory presentations in both directions, so people not familiar with 5G or specific IETF work can learn more; and ways to identify potential 5G requirements that may yield IETF protocol dependencies early on, even if later analysis in 3GPP reduces the urgency of the need for IETF protocol work.

IETF 99 is an opportunity to gain more clarity about specific dependencies that the IETF can expect between the 5G plans and IETF work—there is a slot on the agenda to discuss some of the network slicing work motivated by 5G, in addition to potential hallway conversations and ad hoc discussions. If you’re working on aspects of 5G not covered in the BoF proposals and looking for guidance or input about overlaps with IETF work, please contact the IETF liaison to 3GPP, Gonzalo Camarillo ([email protected]).


1. See slides from Cooper’s presentation at