As mobile operators develop plans for 5G, an early decision will have to be made about the architecture of their respective networks: a standalone 5G deployment or a non-standalone 5G network complemented and supported by LTE.
While a fully standalone 5G network carries higher short-term costs and will take more time to develop, it is more likely to achieve the promises of 5G and help vertical industries design innovative applications to explore new revenue sources, according to a new report from IHS Markit that was commissioned by ZTE (PDF).
“5G standalone architecture network deployment cost can seem capital intensive, but with the right deployment strategy operators can bring the cost down sharply,” Stephane Teral, executive director at IHS Markit, wrote in the report. The firm concludes that a 5G standalone network can become more economical and deployed as fast as a non-standalone 5G network.
As outlined by IHS Markit, the best strategy for a standalone 5G network includes: selective 5G coverage starting in areas with the highest demand for data; co-locate and consolidate radio equipment for 4G and 5G whenever possible; and deploy a 5G core in a data center powered by cloud and virtualization technologies.
“From the investment perspective, operators are better off spending their money on a 5G standalone network,” Teral wrote. A “standalone deployment mode also achieves many other economic benefits such as increased sources of revenues and can enable an operator to capture significant market share in the new verticals.”
By late November 2018, at least 192 operators in 81 countries were demonstrating, testing or conducting field trials of 5G technologies, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association. Altogether, more than 524 separate 5G demonstrations, tests or trials were completed by the same period. Many more have occurred since then, and multiple carriers are expected to launch commercial 5G services later this year.