Cloud-native 5G means advantage of scale
The 5G Core standard defines a Service-Based Architecture (SBA) that is designed from the start for cloud-native 5G network deployment. This enables communication service providers to build and iterate network functions faster, with greater scalability and flexibility than before. Cloud-native 5G also paves the way for network slicing, so providers can tailor network performance to their client’s specific service requirements.
Non-standalone (NSA) vs. standalone (SA) 5G
Most 5G rollouts have been built on the back of existing LTE networks. This Non-Standalone Architecture combines 5G radio networks managed on a 4G Evolved Packet Core network. Standalone Architecture (SA) 5G networks connect to a 5G core network where 4G isn’t an issue. 5G SA provides the completely digitized platform necessary to deploy new cloud services and to take advantage of cloud-native 5G benefits like massive IoT, edge computing, and network slicing.
As Ericsson noted, “Industry digitalization is what is going to pave the way for new revenue streams for service providers. And 5G use cases requiring ultra-low latency and much higher capacity will only be feasible with the SA 5G NR and the 3GPP core network architecture for 5G Core (5GC).”
Why is standalone 5G important?
As per Ericsson, “The network slice is a logically separated, self-contained, independent and secured part of the network, targeting different services with different requirements on speed, latency and reliability.”
Network slicing is a transformative technology that has profound implications for healthcare, transportation, energy and utilities, entertainment, and other industries. Service providers can optimize network performance and service requirements for enterprise users while maximizing their own limited spectrum and network resources.
Cloud-native 5G today
Indecision about Standalone 5G has been slowing the market growth of mobile core networks, according to a report from the Dell’Oro Group. The exception is Chinese operators – the company says the Asia Pacific region comprised 70% of operator spend on 5G core equipment globally.
That’s not to say there’s been no movement in 5G away from the Asia Pacific region, however. In the United States, T-Mobile US has taken the boldest public stand. In fact, it’s the only nationwide U.S. carrier with a Standalone 5G deployment. It launched its 5G SA network in 2020 on its 600 MHz spectrum.
In Europe, different companies are trialing 5G SA networks of their own. Deutsche Telekom and Samsung partnered earlier this year to create a 5G SA trial in Pilsen, Czech Republic, where they found 3x spectrum efficiency compared to LTE. On its home turf, Deutsche Telekom built a 5G SA radio site in Garching, near Munich, and said that it will soon be connected to a 5G SA core network. In nearby Austria, operator Drei has begun trials of a 5G SA core network operating on 700 MHz and 1500 MHz frequencies at its headquarters in Vienna’s Floridsodorf district.
In France, Orange is testing a 5G SA network with several partners including Mavenir, Casa Systems, Dell, and Xiaomi. The network has been deployed first in the town of Lannion, with the intent of providing a “zero-touch” network that automatically provisions services and auto repairs. In the United Kingdom, Vodafone UK has deployed a standalone 5G network at Coventry University aimed at VR training for healthcare professionals.
Other standalone networks are in the works – Nokia and A1 Telekom will deploy 5G SA in Serbia and Slovenia, while Ericsson and Vodafone Spain have partnered for standalone 5G support.