In most of the world, current 5G New Radio infrastructure is connected to an Evolved Packet Core that also supports LTE data transmissions. This network architecture, called 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) has an emphasis on delivering enhanced mobile broadband to consumers, but the 5G Standalone (SA) architecture enables mobile operators to have more efficient network operations and new, immersive user experiences and enterprise business models.
Ultimately, operators are hoping to leverage standalone 5G to deliver network slicing, or an end-to-end logical partition of a network that provides specific levels of service in an autonomous fashion. Ideally, the end user gets the needed connectivity, and the operator provides a differentiated service in a manner that optimizes use of network and spectrum resources.
Deutsche Telekom in the Czech Republic
Early this year, Samsung and Deutsche Telekom announced the completion of their 5G Standalone (SA) trial in Pilsen, Czech Republic, the results of which showed that the spectrum efficiency was tripled in comparison to that of LTE under realistic conditions, while throughput increased by about 2.5 times of Single-User MIMO, according to the companies.
The trial also verified the performance of 5G SA Multi-User, Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) technologies using Samsung’s massive MIMO radio and core.
According to Samsung, its 5G core, used in the Czech Republic trial, “can effortlessly create multiple network slices in a single physical network infrastructure.” In mid-December, Samsung achieved a 5G SA core data processing capacity of 305 Gbps per server during a demonstration with Intel.
“Samsung is glad to successfully conduct the first Massive MIMO call on an end-to-end 5G architecture within the DT Group in Europe. This is an important milestone in both companies’ efforts to bring 5G to the next phase,” said WooJune Kim, EVP and head of global sales & marketing, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics.
Deutsche Telekom in Germany
A month later and to the west, Deutsche Telekom further trialed 5G SA, installing the first 5G SA antenna in the German town of Garching, near Munich. Deutsche Telecom said that the antenna will be soon connected to a 5G Standalone core network and that the infrastructure in the core network will be fully upgraded to a new, cloud-based 5G architecture.
“It is important for us to be at the forefront of the further innovation steps of 5G,” said Claudia Nemat, board member for technology and innovation at Deutsche Telekom. “To ensure that our customers can take advantage of technologies such as network slicing or edge computing in the future, we continue to actively drive the development of 5G and its features.”
Orange in France
Orange launched a test 5G SA network in France in July with the goal of enabling a fully cloud-based, “zero touch” network that automatically provisions services and fixes issues, while using data to optimize infrastructure. The network, first deployed in the town of Lannion, will also offer a glimpse into Open RAN and how open networking can coexist with other technologies.
“Our ambition is to prepare Orange for the operator of the future by building more resilient and auto-adaptive networks that offer best in class quality of service in each situation,” said Michaël Trabbia, chief technology and innovation officer at Orange. “This experimental network represents an important milestone on our way to implement and deploy Open RAN and AI technologies to prepare on-demand connectivity and zero touch operator capabilities.”
The trial involves several industry partners including Mavenir, Casa Systems, Dell and Xiaomi.
Drei in Austria
Also in July, Austrian operator Drei kicked off 5G SA trials at its headquarters and the surrounding area in Vienna’s Floridsdorf district. Drei is using its 5G licenses for 700 and 1,500 MHz frequencies, purchased last year and which will only be used for 5G standalone.
“As part of the largest network expansion program in the history of Drei, we will open doors for new business areas with 5G standalone,” said Matthias Baldermann, CTO of Drei. “In the future, we will be able to tailor the quality and speed in our network to the needs of our customers. Comparable to a multi-lane motorway, we can offer the speed that customers need in every lane, we can reserve entire lanes for customers and areas that rely on a permanently available connection and enable connections almost in real time — so you can rightly do 5G standalone speak as the next evolutionary step.”