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Among various 5G discourses remains the SA vs NSA debate. Standing for Standalone and Non-Standalone, each architecture consists of distinct attributes and can offer significantly differing network capabilities from speed, latency, cost factors, etc. For the familiar, these may not need much digging, but for the uninitiated, this calls for satisfying exploration. So, in this post, we will find out what SA, and NSA 5G mean and what value each offers in terms of services and performance.
But let’s first begin with the basics – How do mobile networks work?
Mobile networks work with the combination of two major modules – Radio Network and Core Network parts. How each has been deployed determines whether a 5G network is SA or NSA. Both the SA and NSA deployment options are defined by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project).
Speaking in layman’s terms, an NSA network is where 4G network is anchored, it is based on an existing 4G infrastructure. On the other hand, if a network is purely 5G by design which doesnot need any dependence over 4G or any other network, it’s a Standalone 5G.
|5G Architecture||Design||Added Benefits||4G Capability|
|SA||5G Radio + 5G Core||Very high speed broadband, Low Latency, Massive IoT, Network Slicing||No|
|NSA||5G Radio + 4G Core||Higher speed broadband than 4G||Yes|
For telecom operators, both SA and NSA come with their own benefits. If a company aims to provide only high-speed connectivity 5G NSA could be ideal. It also costs much less as the existing 4G infrastructure can be duly utilized.
NSA 5G is useful for operators to transition to the 5G without much hustle and bustle with LTE infrastructure and increase broadband speed. However, the subordinate architecture doesn’t support network slicing, URLLC (Ultra reliable low latency communications), and mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication) to provide enhanced connectivity and use cases. Anyway, it is still capable of meeting the devices for video streaming, large file downloads, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), etc. For operators who are seeking to launch 5G without spending a lot on new hardware and software, this could be ideal.
But the true 5G experience comes from the coveted SA architecture as it works on both 5G core and radio parts. A SA 5G delivers high throughput, low latency, multiple connections (including IoT), network slicing, etc. It ticks virtually all the boxes for what we consider a real 5G experience. 3GPP defines the SA as a Service-Based architecture (SBA).
Besides, the SA 5G employs enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency communication (URLLC), huge machine-type communications (mMTC), etc. to offer gigabit data transmissions with low latency. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) can provide the premium form of 5G for enterprises, smart cities, industries, smart home applications, etc.
Let’s find out the key benefits of both SA and NSA 5G:
Early adopters of 5G have mostly focused on NSA deployments to launch their 5G network with slightly better speeds. It helps them save time and cash spent otherwise on new hardware. However, they do have an option to transition towards SA architecture after a period. Anyway, with the NSA variant, operators can provide broadband of 5G and voice on 4G (VoLTE). The 5G ecosystem still is not vast enough to warrant a complete SA strategy either which is why for now, NSA can offer telcos a cost-friendly and efficient 5G option.
But in the future, the SA-inspired 5G would be the key. MNOs will make a gradual transformation to the more mature 5G architecture to provide industrial and IoT needs. The global 5G trend is just accelerating and this is just the start so both SA and NSA 5G can co-exist and help perpetuate the fifth-generation revolutionary network.
Nepal is embracing for 5G trials this year with Nepal Telecom taking the charge. The operator has been approved 2600 MHz band and will use 60 MHz frequencies to go live. As for the architecture, there is a possibility of it choosing both SA and NSA for the advanced cellular network. This could be a rational decision as adopting both methods could help the government-backed operator find a feasible path to deliver the promising services and achieve higher digital inclusion.
Did the post help you gather more on the SA and NSA architecture of the 5G cellular network? Do let us know and comment below for more queries. We would be glad to share more.
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