With 5G technology on our doorstep, we should discuss the two, very different, but interesting deployment models: non-standalone and standalone. Doing so, we’ll focus on the differences between them, and the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
The hopes behind 5G
5G offers the hope of real high speed, ultra-low latency and extreme reliability, that would facilitate different scenarios and use cases that are not possible with older technologies.
As with each technological advance, operators need to invest huge amounts of money, usually in the CAPEX model. This will limit other investments made by communication/digital service providers.
With the pandemic having a major impact on our lives, and increasing consumer and business needs for more connectivity, end-customers are requesting more data every day. So, the big challenge for operators is to satisfy and fulfill this demand. How can they do this effectively from the time and financial perspectives?
When it comes to 5G, there are two types of architecture: non-standalone and standalone. What are the differences between them, and which one is better for a given business?
The difference between standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) 5G deployment models
In the non-standalone (NSA) model, the operator can take advantage of existing investments and LTE architecture. In this case, the radio access network (RAN) has to be newly implemented, but the operations in the core network are supported by the existing evolved packet core (EPC) from LTE.
In this way, operators can reduce their investments (CAPEX) and lower the potential increase of OPEX that may arise from a new core.
In standalone (SA), the opposite of NSA, the RAN and the core (service-based architecture, SBA) are completely new. Furthermore, they are fully compliant with the 3GPP recommendations, so there will be a clear separation of different network functions.
5G NSA and SA deployment models are valid, but which is the best choice?
Standalone versus non-standalone 5G: and the winner is…
The choice of which approach is best will depend on many factors from the telco point of view, such as:
- Investment budget,
- Project deployment schedule
- The level of complexity of running multiple cores in the network.
From the technological point of view, the advantage of deploying a standalone architecture is reflected in the resulting end-to-end high-speed and service assurance, which will allow the rapid introduction of new services and rapid time-to-market. Choosing non-standalone is an evolutionary step, that will help telcos to save time and money needed to have the network ready.
Then, having a 5G network will help them to quickly unlock new 5G revenue streams and offer faster data speeds, obtaining major incomes (compared to those being obtained right now), and this will potentially shorten the time needed to implement full SA architecture.
5G enables new services such as enhanced mobile broadband, support for mission-critical communications and massive IoT deployments. These are only possible thanks to the new technologies and methodologies applied in 5G.
Whichever path is chosen, whether it’s non-standalone or standalone, offering 5G as the mobile access method will enable telecoms to extend services and enhance quality for end-customers. This includes the ability to create different bundles with OTT (over the top) services and facilitate payment for and management of the different providers’ services that a customer might already have, while enabling additional revenue streams for the operator.