5G NCR - Network Controlled Repeaters

To improve the network coverage, non-regenerative RF repeaters are simpler solution. A RF repeaters, works on the principal of amplify-and-forward the signal. RF repeaters have been widely deployed in commercial 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. As 5G NR technology evolving to higher frequencies, signal propagation conditions may deteriorate, necessitating the critical implementation of RF repeaters.

3GPP RAN4 introduced specifications for RF repeaters to meet this increasing demand within Release 17. These specifications lay out requirements for FR1 and FR2 in terms of RF and Electromagnetic Compatibility to ensure compatibility in typical commercial environments.

We know RF repeaters are cost-effective for expanding network coverage, but they are limited in terms of accommodating factors that enhance network performance and efficiency, like dynamic DL/UL configurations, adaptive spatial beamforming, and ON-OFF stages. To overcome these limitations, 3GPP initiated a new Study Item in May 2022 focusing on Network Controlled Repeaters (NCRs).

NCRs carry forward the legacy amplify and forward operation of RF repeaters, but also receive control information from the 5G gNB to function more efficiently. Using this control information, NCRs enable transmissions and receptions with improved spatial directivity, enable easy network integration, and minimize unwanted interference.

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