Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

 

April 8, 2021

 

 

Introduction

5G holds immense potential to transform virtually every industry with its ultrafast speeds, low latency, high bandwidth, and reliability. As healthcare, automotive, manufacturing, entertainment, and a host of other sectors eagerly await the application of next-gen use cases, the race is on for service providers to find the easiest path to rolling out and monetizing the next-gen technology, especially for their enterprise clients. Alepo’s Compact Core facilitates the support of enterprise deployments, particularly those looking for private networks, and it offers a host of flexible options depending on the operator’s unique business requirements.

Alepo’s Compact Core

Most existing 5G networks are powered by 4G core/EPC and 5G RAN (non-standalone 5G or 5G NSA), and since they are dependent on the 4G core, they aren’t true end-to-end 5G networks. Alepo’s new-generation Compact Core, along with the ESS Portal, is set to change that. All elements in the 5G-compliant Compact Core are pre-integrated, ensuring that enterprises can swiftly set up standalone 5G networks (5G SA) that are independent of the 4G core, while also supporting combo deployments over an existing 4G core.

The industrialized Compact Core solution enables service providers to support enterprise and industrial use cases for a small number of subscribers. A complete pre-integrated and self-contained solution, the Compact Core includes the network core and other networking infrastructure, working seamlessly with end devices and the radio access network without impacting or depending on external systems.

The solution comprises AuSF for Authentication, UDM for Authorization, a converged policy combo (PCF + PCRF), and Data Repository for Subscriber Data Management. It also includes an enterprise self-service portal for enterprises to import and efficiently manage all connected devices. (For more details on its features and benefits, read our blog, Envisioning Private 5G Success with Compact Core.)

Compact Core Deployment Modes

Local deployment model

DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
    The 5G Core (5GC) is deployed on-premise over private cloud or standalone servers. The containerized 5G core network functions (NFs) are deployed on cloud-native infrastructure. It is a completely isolated system with no external inputs or outputs, and all data processing is completed and stored onsite.
  • High security with local control and no outside connection

  • Optimizes OPEX

  • One-box solution

  • Ensures smooth operations and maintenance through support for integrated EMS and PaaS tools

  • Manufacturing

  • Utilities

  • Public safety

  • Smart buildings

  • Education

Hybrid deployment model

DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
    The User Plan Function (UPF) is deployed on the telco edge or enterprise premise, while the 5G core is deployed on private or public cloud at a centralized location. All devices are connected to a centralized server; the data payload dynamically changes depending on the edge location, helping ensure low latency.
  • Enables low-latency data connectivity

  • The UPF is connected to the 5G Core using a secured tunnel, ensuring failproof security

  • All 5GC NFs are deployed with a minimal resource footprint

  • Enables focus on data control and access, with dedicated communications only where needed

  • Ensures smooth operations and maintenance through support for integrated EMS and PaaS tools
  • V2X (vehicle to everything) tracking

  • Centralized and distributed campus networks

  • 5G network slicing

  • Logistics

Public cloud model

DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
    The 5G core NFs are deployed on highly distributed public cloud infrastructure, enabling one or more geographic locations both within the operator’s premises as well as in other regions. Supports secure and reliable wireless infrastructure for industrial applications.
  • Reduces network management complexities and ongoing IT maintenance

  • Lowers CAPEX and deployment time

  • Simplifies deployments through automated orchestration and configuration

  • Helps efficiently manage traffic

  • Industrial IoT (IIoT)

  • Manufacturing automation

  • Events

  • 5G AR

  • Base station sites

  • Regional and/or national data centers for edge infrastructure

4G+5G combo model

DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
    This converged offering for a joint 4G and 5G core supports containerized 4G+5G core NFs that are deployed over cloud-native infrastructure, with support for inter-RAT and intra-RAT mobility.
  • Can be deployed with or without N26 interworking support

  • A one-box solution

  • Helps optimize CAPEX and OPEX

  • Supports integrated EMS and PaaS tools for smooth operations and maintenance
  • Enterprises who want to support LTE from a 5G core

  • Network slicing

Business Benefits of Alepo’s Compact Core

Partnering with Alepo for the Compact Core offers a host of advantages for service providers:

  • The solution’s flexibility in deployment is unparalleled, ensuring a low resource footprint no matter what deployment mode an enterprise chooses. 
  • The Compact Core leverages cloud-native features to ensure hassle-free, automated, and cost-efficient operations that can be tailored for each enterprise’s unique business requirements.  
  • The plug-and-play capability enables enterprises to swiftly launch a private network, bundling in one solution a host of network offerings (broadband, voice, and more). The various open interfaces such as Radio Access Network (RAN) or core network can plug into the operator’s network for wide-area coverage. The solution enables the enterprise to support and control services (like edge computing) and facilitates network management using a network slice.
  • Alepo is an early mover in helping operators implement 5G technology, with many 5GC projects and compact cores deployed. As an end-to-end solutions provider, we leverage our many cross-industry partnerships, build cybersecurity plans, and ensure regulatory compliance in your region of operations, enabling you to realize your operational and business goals so you can focus on helping your enterprise clients do that same.

 

Begin your next-gen journey today by booking a demo with our 5G solution experts.

Prathamesh Malushte

Prathamesh Malushte

Principal Solution Architect

Prathamesh is a PDM and solution integration specialist with expertise in 5G core network functions and protocols. He specializes in creating user stories, call flows, and designs for 5GC as well as legacy networks, as well as in handling OSS/BSS intricacies. After hours, he loves sports, enjoys trekking, and is passionate about playing different musical instruments.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter

The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

18th of March 2021

An introduction to 5G service-based architecture

5G brings transformational changes to the core network with a modular and cloud-native approach. One key advancement is that it upgrades the traditional telco architecture to Service-Based Architecture (SBA), enabling more flexible service development.

Introduced to improve the modularity of the network system, SBA lets network elements or network functions (NFs) in 5G communicate with each other over a service-based interface. It allows the decoupling of NFs with more precise functionalities. Each NF provides a set of services to another NF in the SBA. These NFs communicate with each other using a more open REST-based interface rather than traditional telco protocols such as Diameter.

What does this integral change in network architecture mean for telcos?

The SBA offers a host of benefits, including:

  • Deploys as containers orchestrated by Kubernetes, allowing the core to run on non-proprietary infrastructure
  • Lets new software vendors plug-and-play their NFs for a best of breeds approach
  • Enables network slicing, with dynamic and efficient resource utilization
  • Simplifies operations using application programming interface (APIs)
  • Leverages the use of harmonized protocols such as HTTP/2 and its well-developed security mechanisms
  • Facilitates seamless integration of third-party applications with the core network

SBA offers a host of benefits

How network functions communicate in SBA

Every NF in the SBA acts as a service producer and a service consumer for each NF. All NFs communicate with each other using one of two mechanisms:

  • Request-response mechanism: here, a consumer NF requests a producer NF for services over HTTP/2 request, and the producer NF complies.
  • Subscribe-notify mechanism: a consumer NF subscribes to certain events of the producer NF, and the producer NF notifies the consumer NF once the particular event occurs.

All of this communication is always completed using JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) objects.

The Network Repository Function – a standalone NF – acts as a unified NF repository and an internal mediator between NFs for operations such as discovery and status tracking of NF instances. For instance, if the Access and Mobility Function (AMF) wants to communicate with the Session Management Function (SMF) to establish a data session, and needs certain information about the SMF (including NF type, FQDN/IP address, endpoint information, services supported, and more) to ensure its communication with the SMF is seamless, it requests this information from the NRF. The NRF responds with the required data, facilitating smooth communication between the two.

The SBA provides an underlying REST-based stateless transaction framework for previously stateful services.

From the development standpoint, interfaces (APIs) for SBA are defined with Interface Definition Language (IDL). The interface definitions are written using YAML, and are language- and platform-independent, reducing development time and effort. They are utilized by the producer NF and consumer NF to ensure that communication between them is standardized and harmonized.

The full potential of 5G SBA

5G SBA allows any third-party application, referred by 3GPP as Application Function (AF), to interact with 5G NFs in a secured manner. Another NF – Network Exposure Function (NEF) – acts as a mediator for external communication. For example, the AF will subscribe to AMF events via NEF, the AMF will notify the NEF once the event occurs, and the NEF will then notify the AF. This is vital in enabling several next-gen use cases such as precise indoor navigation for complex buildings such as airports, train stations, hospitals, malls, trade shows, offices, industrial areas, and more.

A 5G standalone (5G-SA) network will leverage the full potential of service-based architecture, elevating the consumer’s mobile network experience while also opening a host of monetization and partnership opportunities for MNOs.

How Alepo can accelerate your 5G journey

With its vast experience in automation and digital transformation, Alepo designs advanced 5G Core and digital BSS solutions that ensure modern, flexible, secured, and operationally efficient deployments.

Alepo’s 5G Converged Core supports 4G, 5G Non-Standalone (NSA), as well as 5G SA deployments. Along with Alepo’s 5G core network functions, it provides key components of the 5G core, including subscriber data management, policy control and charging, AUSF, UDM+HSS, UDR, PCF+PCRF, and more.

The Converged Core employs cloud- and PaaS-agnostic microservices-based software architecture and supports flexible deployment models such as public, private, and hybrid. It also supports both containerized (using Docker) as well as VNF-based deployments, facilitating matured, integrated, and robust 5G implementation at the application, infrastructural, and process levels.

Nitish Muley

Nitish Muley

Senior Engineer

Nitish has spent years building mobile apps for technologies like VR, AR, IoT, and is currently working on Alepo’s newest products. Always up to speed with the latest in the industry, Nitish is a voracious reader – and fervent writer – about all things related to tech and wireless standards. After hours, he wears a traveler’s hat, pursuing his love for photography as he explores different countries.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter

Top five telecom trends to expect in 2021

Top five telecom trends to expect in 2021

Top five telecom trends to expect in 2021

 

28th of December 2020

 

 

2020 has been transformative for businesses around the world; years of digitalization happened within months and service providers were the backbone of this change. The pandemic has also compelled CSPs to rethink their operations and fasttrack their own digital transformation – a phase that has only just begun and will accelerate in 2021.

Operators will reinvent and focus more on customer-centric offerings to meet evolving demands with the work from anywhere culture and to be ready for new lockdowns on notice. AI, machine learning, and automation will facilitate telcos to modernize their network and help create personalized and contextual services. 5G has become a reality and new IoT applications and private 5G will come to fruition.

The increasing reliance on cloud services, digital communication, and digital payments, in addition to increasing network demand, also means added cybersecurity concerns for networks as well as their subscribers. 2020 saw significant hacks, and operators will continue to put in place more enhanced security measures to safeguard their own networks and their customers.

The top 5 trends to watch

5G proliferation

Luckily the pandemic didn’t slow 5G investment, with new network rollouts accelerating. 2020 saw devices like the iPhone12 and lower-priced 5G devices hitting the market, and the adoption is expected to be widespread in 2021. 5G operators will need to turn their attention towards providing a customer experience that’s as modern and advanced as the services it will accompany, as well as solutions for private 5G to facilitate the fourth industrial revolution.

Deloitte forecasts that private 5G deployment over the next five years will largely comprise three types of industries for which private 5G is the most natural choice, delivering unmatched security, low latency, high speed, network slicing for specific resource allocation, cost-efficiency, and flexibility that technologies such as 4G and LTE cannot. The first movers, they predict, will be ports, airports, and other logistics hubs, considering the nature of their operations that require controlling a vast network of equipment to manage heavy loads and tracking each consignment in real-time. Next, the forecast says, will be factories and warehouses looking to replace their existing combination of wired as well as wireless technologies with wireless private 5G networks that can handle high volumes of large and small devices, including everything from a screwdriver to massive industrial equipment. The third section of the market, the forecast says, will include greenfield deployments, especially in smart buildings and campuses, but also temporary sites such as music festivals.

And private 5G holds massive potential for service providers: an Analysys Mason report cites that of all existing and ongoing private 5G deployments, operators hold merely 16%, implying there is much scope for growth. While many large enterprises are considering deploying their own private 5G networks, operators have a competitive edge. Operator-licensed spectrum is currently the only deployment option available for private networks in many countries and is least likely to face interference. This, coupled with their expertise in building network infrastructure and managing operations, makes partnering with operators a reliable and cost-effective route to private 5G.

Internet of Behavior (IoB)

5G has ushered in a new generation of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). The use of IoT devices will be even more widespread as 5G networks become more prevalent globally. We also know that this means that there will be more devices per person, and more devices mean more valuable customer data, for what can be called the Internet of Behaviors (IoB).

IoB means companies will take advantage of their access to increasingly sophisticated data and insights into customer behavior through technologies like big data, location tracking, and facial recognition. Gathering and analyzing this behavioral data helps boost CX by offering increasingly personalized and contextual services – over different channels depending on individual preferences. In addition to gauging demand, these detailed behavior insights will also enable operators to accelerate identifying and tackling service-related and other issues their customers may be facing.

The nature of data that is gathered and used will depend on local privacy laws and regulations in different countries, though often the responsibility will be on individual companies to define the comfort zone for what level of data gathering is acceptable for their customers, in other words, using the data to offer enough value-addition to customers to improve their relationship with the business, without overstepping moral bounds.

Cloud services

The digital shift of working from anywhere is compelling more telcos to invest in IT systems and infrastructure that can support the high volumes of data their networks are processing. Cloud computing is being embraced by telcos more and more as its benefits become known. Operating in the cloud reduces physical infrastructural requirements, lowers operational costs, and helps streamline processes. Further, it enables operators to leverage the full potential of their customer data, making it more easily accessible across the organization.

Among the different cloud computing scenarios, more telcos are likely to favor distributed cloud in 2021. Here, public cloud providers distribute cloud services to various physical locations. Telcos can choose locations close to them to enable low latency and lower costs while operating on the public cloud without having to invest in private cloud infrastructure.

And while telcos will increasingly invest in cloud computing, data volumes are continuing to increase by the minute; Gartner has estimated that by 2023, 43 billion IoT-enabled devices will be in use. Cloud computing falls short in offering enough latency to handle these growing data volumes and the advanced use cases that 5G supports. Telcos can supplement their capacity and support IoT infrastructure by implementing edge computing systems that will pre-process data that it gathers from its sources of origin.

Cybersecurity

The increasing dependence on digital connectivity has also meant that telcos need to account for added security threats to their networks as well as to customer devices, taking additional measures to secure customer data. Forbes reports that the pandemic has resulted in attacks on banks increasing 238 percent, and those on cloud servers increasing by 600 percent, and this is only between January and April 2020.

Telcos must account for the fact that more customers, individuals as well as enterprise clients, are working remotely, and need a security structure in place that safeguards them. This means that cybersecurity strategies, similar to those earlier provided to enterprises, will now be extended to home networks and on mobile devices.

Operators will increasingly employ sophisticated tools such as AI and machine learning techniques to filter out security threats, implement additional firewalls, use cloud and other services with more enhanced in-built security measures, and more.

Confidential computing is another important trend that we are likely to see in 2021, helping operators in ramping up data privacy, encrypting all computing, and adding layers of security around the sensitive customer as well as network data.

Digital payments

Contactless payments were already pervasive pre-pandemic and have since taken even greater strides, enabling secure payments while maintaining hygiene precautions in keeping with global social distancing norms. Forty-six percent of respondents in a global consumer study said they had opted for contactless payment options instead of their cards, and 82 percent view it as a cleaner way to make payments. In another survey conducted by Fiserv on payment methods people considered safest in preventing COVID-19 spread, 42 percent of respondents chose tap-and-pay credit cards and 24 percent chose mobile payments, with only six percent opting for cash. In fact, a report published by global consultancy A.T. Kearney says that we may have the first cashless society in just five years, running only on the card and digital payments.

2021 will mean service providers will introduce more advanced digital payment offerings. These technologies will help improve security through real-time detection and prevention of frauds and security breaches, provide instant round-the-clock-support to prevent payment delays and resolve disputes, automate processes for swift and seamless transactions, and utilize invaluable BI data and advanced analytics to create a more personalized customer experience. AI will also help in evaluating loan eligibility, putting in place rewards systems, optimizing sales and inventory management, and more.

Bring on 2021

2020 has arguably been one of the most mentally and physically challenging years in recent human history – a year that most of us want to move on from. And 2021 brings all the exciting opportunities we’ve been hoping for, especially with technology growing by leaps and bounds.

At Alepo, we’re proud to be building software in these transformative times to help businesses overcome their challenges. We’re thrilled at the prospect of partnering in your success, whether you’re planning to introduce any of our forecasted trends for the year, overhaul your network, introduce new services, or launch a new network. Reach out today to see how we can help you in your network’s journey to success.

Reach out today to see how we can help you in your network’s journey to success.

Gayatri Sarang

Gayatri Sarang

Lead Content and Engagement Specialist – Marketing

Gayatri is part of the content and communications brigade at Alepo. Having locked focus on the telecom domain in recent years, she has vast and diverse experience in writing for leading publications. She moonlights as a volunteer urban wildlife rehabber and is a passionate baker.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter

Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

22nd of October 2020

By now we all know that 5G’s ultrafast speeds, high bandwidth, and low latency will open a world of opportunities, its advanced applications transforming virtually every industry. From manufacturing, healthcare, and the Internet of Things (IoT), to AR, VR, and gaming, the possibilities are endless. Service providers have two ways of transitioning to a next-gen network: 5G NSA (non-standalone) and 5G SA (standalone), with SA being the end-goal. 5G NSA (4G LTE EPC plus new RAN) remains the strategy to quickly launch high-speed 5G broadband, yet lacks the new architecture and functionality that will allow 5G to fulfill its visionary use cases.

Unlike 5G NSA, which reuses the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), 5G SA uses cloud-based and Service-Based Architecture (SBA) that optimize network infrastructure with virtualized network functions (NFs), enabling operators to launch differentiated services, ensuring a high quality of service.

5G NSA: step one in 5G launch

The most popular choice of service providers to deploy 5G is 5G NSA, which is 5G radio using an existing 4G EPC. This option is considered the most viable and cost-effective. The only condition is that the 4G EPC needs to be 3GPP Release 15-complaint with additional functionalities to support dual-radio connectivity. This will enable operators to seamlessly launch 5G services and offer high-speed internet and improve access capacity.

5G NSA focuses on offering higher data speeds and improved radio coverage in densely populated areas, helping CSPs rapidly market 5G to gain a competitive edge. However, it does not offer many of the advanced use cases possible with 5G SA, such as ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC).

 5G-SA: the path to full 5G benefits

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has revamped core network architecture, having moved away from traditional telecom protocols to more open, modern SBA. The 5G Core comprises multiple NFs, each responsible for specific core network functions. These NFs use REST-based APIs to interface with each other over HTTP/2 protocol, which is collectively referred to as the Service-Based Interface (SBI).

5G SA key components 5G SA key features and components

With the sheer number of use cases it supports and the forecast for devices, traffic is far more dynamic in a 5G network. And so a robust underlying core network is necessary for the network to swiftly respond to demands. 5G SA enables just that. Some of its key features:

Multi-vendor ecosystem opens the doors for new vendors, who are not just restricted to the telecom sector, or in the legacy core. The adoption of new technologies that are in-line with modern infrastructure such as REST-based (HTTP/2 or Open APIs) widens the scope for innovative vendors to contribute and revolutionize network operations and processes.

Service-Based Architecture defines key 5GC components as NFs that integrate with each over modern APIs that support multiple varied core network functions.

Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS) enables independent scaling between the control plane and user plane functions, facilitating flexible network deployment and operation. For instance, if the data traffic load increases, more data plane nodes are added without affecting the functionality of the existing control plane.

Network function virtualization (NFV) allows virtualizing entire network functions and appliances using standard vendor-neutral hardware and IT infrastructure in the 5G network. It helps operators achieve a faster service life cycle, rapid deployment, scalability, operational efficiency, agility, and more.

Network slicing enables operators to build multiple dedicated networks to cater to different business verticals with diverse requirements of high-bandwidth, ultra-reliability, low-latency communication, and more.

Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) distributes computing resources along the communication path using decentralized cloud infrastructure. MEC brings data and computational capabilities closer to the source and network edges such as users’ devices, IoT devices, vCPEs, and more.

Some key components include:

Unified Data Management (UDM) enables managing all subscription-related data for authorization and access services.

Unified Data Repository (UDR) stores all structured data on a flexible and highly available platform, enabling the network to readily respond to critical demands in real-time.

Policy Control Function (PCF) is evolved from the PCRF of legacy networks, providing policy assets to handle access mobility related to policies, as well as handling data- and application-related policies. It enables advanced plan and policy customization for 5G use cases.

Network Repository Function (NRF) keeps a record of all network function instances in the network and helps automate the functioning of NFs.

Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF) plays an essential role in network slicing, dynamically selecting slices based on real-time information.

Network Exposure Function (NEF) ensures information is securely translated and communicated from external applications. It is fundamental in the authorization for any access request received outside of the 3GPP network, thus ensuring the network supports use cases like cellular IoT, edge computing, and more.

Business benefits you can derive with a robust 5G SA solution

A 5G SA solution is meant to enable service providers to adapt to key technological changes like a cloud-native and microservice-based architecture, helping achieve operational excellence while maximizing ROI. It can facilitate:

  • Rapid introduction of new services without interfering with existing services
  • Scaling to support changing network demands and growing subscriber bases
  • Offering differentiated services with high QoS
  • Automating functions like network slicing
  • Lowering operational costs

Alepo’s role in your 5G journey

Alepo offers core network solutions and a digital business support system (BSS) to support unified 4G management (EPC, IMS), C-IoT, and non-3GPP networks (such as WiFi).

Alepo’s 5G Core solution includes AUSF, subscriber data management (SDM), UDM, UDR, EIR, PCF, and Charging Function (CHF). It also includes a unified and highly scalable subscriber repository that holds identities and subscription profiles for both 4G and 5G. The 5G Core employs cloud- and PaaS-agnostic microservice-based software architecture and supports public, private, and hybrid deployment options. And it supports both containerized and NFV-based deployment.

Alepo also supports operators who are not yet ready to move to 5G, bridging the gap by creating a modern next-gen omnichannel experience for subscribers by adding WiFi offload into the operator’s network as well as enabling unique and advanced IoT offerings on the legacy network.

Tell us your business needs, and we’ll help design network innovations to drive ROI. Connect with an Alepo expert today.

Rajesh Mhapankar

Rajesh Mhapankar

Director, Innovations

A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter

5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

 

19th of October 2020

Introduction

For leading mobile network operators (MNOs), 5G is mainly about offering high-speed connectivity to consumers, on devices that support fifth-gen network services. To smoothly transition from the existing legacy core to 5G, MNOs have two pathways: Non-Standalone (NSA) or Standalone (SA) architecture. And while they are both means to the same end, NSA and SA are structurally and functionally different.

NSA allows operators to leverage their existing network investments in communications and mobile core instead of deploying a new core for 5G. 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) can be deployed and supported by the existing Evolved Packet Core (EPC), lowering CAPEX and OPEX. To further lower network operating costs, operators can adopt the virtualization of Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS) along with software-defined networking (SDN). These initial steps will help quickly unlock new 5G revenue streams and offer faster data speeds.

5G SA is a completely new core architecture defined by 3GPP that introduces major changes such as a Service-Based Architecture (SBA) and functional separation of various network functions. Its architecture has the definite advantage of end-to-end high-speed and service assurance, particularly useful for MNOs who are set to commence new enterprise 5G services such as smart cities, smart factories, or other vertically integrated market solutions. The deployment model enables the rapid introduction of new services with quick time-to-market. However, it means additional investment and complexities of running multiple cores in the network.

Architecturally, NSA includes a new RAN, deployed alongside the 4G or LTE radio with the existing 4G Core or EPC. 5G SA, on the other hand, includes a new radio along with the 5G Core (5GC), comprising completely virtualized cloud-native architecture (CNA) that introduces new ways to develop, deploy, and manage services. 5GC supports high-throughput for accelerated performance than the 5G network demands. Its virtualized service-based architecture (SBA) makes it possible to deploy all 5G software network functions using edge computing.

5G software network functions using edge computingAn overview of 5G SA and 5G NSA deployment options (Source: GSMA) 

5G Standalone (SA) vs 5G Non-Standalone (NSA)

5G SA Architecture

According to a survey, 37% of MNOs will deploy 5G SA within two years; 27% of operators plan to deploy 5G SA within 12 to 18 months with an additional 10% increase within 24 months. 5G SA architecture will allow operators to address the fifth generation of mobile communications, including enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-to-machine communications, massive IoT, and ultra-low latency communications.

Standalone 5G NR comprises a new end-to-end architecture that uses mm-Waves and sub-GHz frequencies and this mode will not make use of the existing 4G LTE infrastructure. The SA 5G NR will use enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and huge machine-type communications (mMTC) to implement multi-gigabit data rates with improved efficiency and lower costs.

5G SA also enables more advanced network slicing capabilities, helping operators rapidly transition to both 5G New Radio (NR) and 5G as the core network. Network slicing, URLLC, and mMTC bring ultra-low latency along with a wide range of next-gen use cases like remote control of critical infrastructure, self-driving vehicles, advanced healthcare, and more. However, the NR advanced cases are not backward compatible with the EPC, which is the framework that provides converged voice and data on a 4G LTE network. The level of reliability and latency that 5G provides will be indispensable for handling smart-grid control machines, industrial automation, robotics, and drone control and coordination.

5G NSA Architecture

NSA 5G NR is considered as the early version of SA 5G NR mode, in which 5G networks are supported by existing LTE infrastructure. It fundamentally concentrates on eMBB, where 5G-supported handsets and devices will make use of mmWave frequencies for increased data capacity but will continue to use existing 4G infrastructure for voice communications.

NSA helps MNOs launch 5G quickly for eMBB to get a competitive edge in the telecom market. NSA also helps leverage its existing LTE/VoLTE footprint to maximize the LTE installed base and boost capacity while increasing delivery efficiency. It will not support network slicing, URLLC, and mMTC, but its higher broadband speeds will enable services such as video streaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and an immersive media experience.

Non-Standalone 5G NR will provide increased data-bandwidth by using the following two new radio frequency ranges:

  • Frequency range 1 (450 MHz to 6000 MHz) – overlaps with 4G LTE frequencies and is termed as sub-6 GHz. The bands are numbered from 1 to 255.
  • Frequency range 2 (24 GHz to 52 GHz) – is the main mmWave frequency band. The bands are numbered from 257 to 511.

Technical Differences between 5G SA and 5G NSA

The main difference between NSA and SA is that NSA provides control signaling of 5G to the 4G base station, whereas in SA the 5G base station is directly connected to the 5G core network and the control signaling does not depend on the 4G network. In simple terms, NSA is like adding a solid-state drive to an old computer, which can improve the system’s performance, while SA is like replacing it with a new computer that has newer technologies and optimum performance.

Some benefits include:

  • NSA is extremely low in cost compared to SA.
  • NSA eases 5G network deployments as it reuses existing 4G facilities, thus allowing rapid time to market for 5G mobile broadband.
  • With NSA, the deployment is faster and time-to-market is lower, as 4G locations can be used to install 5G radio. SA requires building 5G base stations and the back-end 5G core network to fully realize the characteristics and functions of 5G.
  • SA involves a 5G core with SBA for scalability and flexibility to deliver a superfast network with ultra-low latency for advanced 5G use cases.

5G Usage Scenarios in NSA and SA Operation

The requirements of 5G NR for the SA provide a complete set of specifications for the 5G core network that goes beyond NSA. The three major usage scenarios defined for 5G by the 3GPP and GSMA include:

  1. Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)
  2. Ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC)
  3. Massive machine-type communications (mMTC)

Enhanced Mobile Broadband with 5G Major 5G usage scenarios

The Future of 5G Includes NSA and SA

Early adopters of 5G primarily focus on NSA deployments as they compete to deliver 5G speeds with a quick time to market. These MNOs can move to SA-based architecture over a period of time, which most plan to do. NSA deployment remains a mainstream solution given its ability to handle both 4G- and 5G-based traffic, keeping these early adopters ahead of their competition as they undertake their network transformation. 5G devices are not widespread so the need for SA-based architecture is still nascent.

In the future, the convergence of NSA and SA will help operators move to a full 5G network. A complete virtualized 5G architecture will allow MNOs to migrate and choose varied functionalities of their existing NSA solution to the 5GC platform, as new 5G services are launched, allowing them to monetize their investment gradually rather than move all at once and enabling them to recover their costs over time.

Although SA is a more mature network architecture compared to NSA, NSA will continue to be the more commonly chosen path to 5G. All NSA single-mode 5G phones launched this year or early next year will be valid for a decade, and as SA architecture permeates, more and more 5G SA devices will be in our homes and businesses.

Rajesh Mhapankar

Rajesh Mhapankar

Director, Innovations

A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter