Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are planning a rapid migration to 5G in order to improve user experience and create new value. They are therefore considering the most effective way forward for their future business, without disrupting their current business. Initial offerings of 5G will be tightly coupled to LTE networks to accelerate time to market, and this raises the key question addressed in this blog: are CSPs tied to existing LTE network vendors for their path to 5G?
The first phase of 5G-NR deployed in 2019 will use a Non-Standalone architecture (NSA) that couples the LTE with 5G-NR radio layers. These two layers are aggregated via an X2 connection which allows for simultaneous ‘dual’ connectivity between LTE and 5G radios.
Nokia has a simpler alternative solution that does not require X2 interworking between an incumbent and new vendor but facilitates a ‘new’ Nokia overlay with minimal support from an incumbent vendor. This solution uses a layer of Nokia LTE (in current 700 MHz, 1800 MHz or 2100 MHz bands, for example) that can be deployed simultaneously and seamlessly alongside a new mid-band 5G-NR carrier. This layer provides the anchor point for the 4G coverage network and ensures that the benefits of NSA architectures can be realized by new 5G-enabled mobile devices, without compromising the user experience of legacy 4G/LTE devices.
Enabling longer-term migration to unleash the full potential of 5G requires more than just an upgrade of the radio and transport network. A new core network (5GC) is needed to fully realize the flexibility and capability of 5G-NR including network slicing to support massive machine connectivity and ultra-low latency. The 5GC is designed with Stand-a-lone (SA) based radio architectures to allow the future services evolution unencumbered by the present and past core architectures.
SA solutions will be available starting at the end of 2019. The NSA standardization was accelerated in order to allow early 5G-NR trials and deployments and the SA standardization process is running approximately 6 months behind this. An SA solution cannot use LTE for the mobility anchor and therefore, low band 5G is required. A CSP can use this Nokia LTE layer with Nokia 5G-NR to rapidly launch non-standalone 5G, and then move to 5G Stand-Alone (SA) with low band 5G by using RF sharing with Nokia low band LTE. This solution offers the greatest flexibility to support a wide variety of new 5G use cases by unleashing the full potential of 5G.
CSPs do not need to be afraid of being locked into their existing LTE vendor on their path to 5G. With this solution, Nokia is the partner that shows the way forward, and has the only globally available end to end portfolio to make 5G a business success.
This is where Nokia’s 5G Future X architecture comes in to play. It provides the framework for those strong first steps to 5G. It means that a smart network fabric, with cloud native platforms and AI tools and secure communications are in place and will enable 5G network slicing for monetizing those new use cases, while efficiently using precious spectrum.
Nokia already has a range of 5G proof points. We have 30 commercial 5G contracts with CSPs and are approaching 100 engagements in total with CSPs who are evaluating and deploying 5G.
We also have a range of business planning tools to identify the costs and revenue upside.
Whatever your plans for 5G, the important thing is don’t delay. It is closer than you think. The opportunity is there for the taking.
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