Ericsson announced the general availability of its Standalone (SA) 5G New Radio (NR) software for low- and mid-band spectrum.
The SA technology enables service providers to operate 5G NR without the need for signaling support from an underlying LTE network. Ericsson said all of its radio system equipment deployed since 2015 can support Standalone 5G NR capabilities with a software installation.
So far, operators have been deploying the Non-Standalone (NSA) version of the 5G standard where the underlying 4G network layer supports the signaling. With the SA version, 5G can be deployed in venues like factories or other enterprise facilities without having to rely on LTE.
Because SA 5G NR removes the dependency on 4G, it allows for faster network connection times, enabling applications that require low latency such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), smart factories and connected vehicles. In fact, Ericsson says a SA 5G NR device can connect six times faster to a Standalone 5G network than a device operating in NSA mode.
“Over the past year, we have worked closely with many customers to successfully deploy Non-standalone 5G. These 5G networks have enabled higher data speeds and new use cases,” said Per Narvinger, head of Product Area Networks at Ericsson, in a press release. “Now we are taking the next step in the evolution of 5G by making generally available the software to support Standalone 5G NR networks. These standalone capabilities will enable even more use cases and applications.”
In its announcement, Ericsson specifically called out T-Mobile as a long-time Ericsson partner, along with Australia’s Telstra; both have conducted trials of the Ericsson Standalone 5G NR software on their commercial networks.
“Standalone 5G is the next important step for wireless connectivity, with the potential to unleash a whole new range of future transformative applications,” said T-Mobile CTO Abdul Saad in a statement. “We’re proud to be leading the charge alongside Ericsson and other technology innovators and look forward to bringing standalone 5G to our customers later this year.”
Legacy operators in the U.S. are on a path to deploy the SA version of the 5G standard after first rolling out the NSA version. However, Dish Network, which the government set up as a fourth facilities-based carrier as part of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, is bypassing the NSA part of the standard and going straight to a Standalone network. Its announced vendors thus far include Fujitsu for radio units and Altiostar and Mavenir for cloud-native 5G software.
Ericsson said it has completed Standalone 5G interoperability with key ecosystem partners, and standalone 5G devices are expected to become available later in 2020.