Telstra upgrades to 5G standalone-ready network in Australia

In 2019 Ericsson and Telstra completed the first end-to-end 5G standalone call in Australia at Telstra’s 5G Innovation Center. (Getty Images)

Telstra said its mobile network is now ready to support 5G New Radio standalone (SA) capabilities, upgrading its radio access network across Australia with Ericsson’s cloud native 5G core.

The operator called the work to turn on standalone 5G “a mammoth task” but one that enables increased efficiency and transformational benefits to deliver new types of services.

Telstra said it’s the first telco in Australia to enable end-to-end 5G standalone across its network, as well as one of the first in the world. Most currently deployed 5G networks are still operating in non-standalone (NSA) mode, which use 5G technology to boost data transfers but rely on support from a 4G LTE core.

RELATED: Telstra, Ericsson complete 5G standalone call in Australia

With standalone, 5G is in a sense more purely 5G, where it no longer leans on existing 4G tech and the next-generation technology is used for signaling communication between devices and base stations.

“That communication happening over 5G means many more devices can communicate simultaneously, at higher speeds, and in many more complex ways than 4G can,” the operator noted in its news release.

Telstra said it’s in early testing of its first 5G SA-capable devices, which are expected to be available to customers in late 2020.

“5G New Radio Standalone and 5G Core is the next evolution in architecture for 5G networks, which will help to increase network efficiency and drive new uses, particularly for Industry 4.0,” said Emilio Romeo, head of Ericsson Australia and New Zealand, in a statement.

RELATED: Ericsson, Oppo, MediaTek team on successful 5G VoNR call

The service-based 5G SA architecture also enables operators to implement advanced functions like network slicing. With network slicing, portions of the network can be segmented and tailored to the specific needs of users or applications, in terms of capacity, connectivity and speed requirements. Enterprises are often cited as one segment that could see major benefits from network slicing.  

Standalone mode delivers 5G improvements like ultra-reliable low-latency, even greater capacity, and massive machine-to-machine communications, Telstra noted. The operator said its in discussions with partners to explore what kind of applications they can use the 5G SA upgrade for.

RELATED: ‘Real’ 5G relies on 5G NR, Standalone architecture: Special Report

“The capability is now in place for some exciting innovations from our enterprise business partners – for example, a branch office of a bank may be able to stand up and operate multiple applications and services using only a 5G Standalone capable device for network access, massively reducing the infrastructure required to set up,” Telstra said.

Last summer Ericsson and Telstra completed the first end-to-end 5G standalone call in Australia at Telstra’s 5G Innovation Center. 

SK Telecom in January achieved a 5G SA data call on its commercial network in South Korea using equipment from both Ericsson and Samsung. SK Telecom had said it plans to launch 5G SA services in the first half of this year.

In the U.S. carriers have previously signaled intentions to start moving to the standalone version, including Verizon, who earlier this year said it would be a multi-year transition.