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What is the Difference in 5G Non-Standalone and 5G Standalone?

5 minute read

GSMA Intelligence reports that in 2022, 12 percent of the global connections (excluding licensed cellular IoT) were 5G and that number is expected to increase to 54 percent – or 5.3 billion connections by 2030. Furthermore, 5G is anticipated to add nearly $1 trillion to the global economy by 2030. The groundwork is well underway for 5G, with a general mix of 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) and 5G Standalone (SA) already starting to be deployed.

What is 5G Non-Standalone?

The 5G cellular network initially rolled out is 5G NSA, because it relies on the 4G LTE network core. This led to faster roll outs of 5G as network operators were investing in the new infrastructure required for 5G SA.

As it stands, 5G NSA leverages a 5G radio access network (RAN) over the 4G LTE architecture and serves as an early access to 5G without the significant investment building out 5G SA. In fact, the 3GPP – the standards body over cellular network technologies – defined 5G NSA and 5G SA, with SA being the first network improvement – similar to 4G and 4G LTE.

5G NSA is an improvement from 4G LTE as it provides greater speeds and lower latency than the previous cellular generation, but the best of 5G is yet to come.

What is 5G Standalone?

With standalone 5G networks, network carriers will be implementing not only a 5G RAN, but also a cloud-native (or new radio) 5G core. This is where 5G is going to see its full capabilities of ultra-low latency, high bandwidth, greater throughput, and high speeds. The roll out is going to take time, however, because network operators will not only need to deploy the infrastructure but learn how to manage the network.

According to the November update from the GSA Standalone Summary Report, the organisation had identified 111 operators in 52 countries that had invested in 5G SA networks, whether that was trials of the network, either planning or actually launching 5G. The report continues by stating that roughly 36 operators in 21 countries and territories have launched a public 5G SA network.

5G SA is often split into three segments:

  • Massive machine-type communications (mMTC): This segment refers to the ability to connect devices in the billions to support widespread applications such as smart cities, precision farming, connected campuses, asset tracking, fleet management, smart energy and utilities, and much more.
  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (emBB): Broadband internet has commonly been available but it has been limited by the fact it is stationary. High-definition streaming and connecting to rapid speeds in a mobile environment will be possible through eMBB. This will enhance business applications of video streaming and monitoring in myriad use cases, as well as the ability to integrate augmented reality and virtual reality.
  • Critical IoT: With lightning speeds, high throughput, and low latency, automation is going to be a large growth area within the Critical IoT sector. Use cases include automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that can be used in logistics and warehousing, remote surgery, and automation within industrial. 

Keeping Up with the Latest Cellular Tech and Trends

The cellular technology landscape is ever evolving. The 5G era includes standards defined by the 3GPP as low power wide area (LPWA) networks, which are Long Term Machine Type Communication (LTE-M) – also referred to as Cat-M – and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). Non-cellular LPWA network LoRa or LoRaWAN also competes in the market for IoT connectivity. It can be challenging to determine which connectivity technology can work for your unique use case. That’s why KORE is here. Get in touch to learn more about how to power your solutions easily from a single provider. 

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Topic(s): Featured , 5G

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