5G Standalone Update: Member Report – June 2021
Operators are increasingly experimenting with and deploying 5G standalone (SA) networks. Based on a totally new, cloud-based, virtualised, microservices-based core infrastructure, some of the anticipated benefits of introducing 5G SA technologies include faster connection times (lower latency), support for massive numbers of devices, programmable systems enabling faster and more agile creation of services and network slices, with improved support for SLA management within those slices, and the advent of voice-over new radio. Introduction of 5G SA is expected to facilitate simplification of architectures, improve security and reduce costs. 5G SA is expected to enable customisation and open up new service and revenue opportunities tailored to enterprise, industrial and government customers.
GSA is tracking the emergence of the 5G SA system, including the availability of chipsets and devices for customers, plus the testing and then deployment of 5G SA networks by public mobile network operators as well as private network operators. This paper is the latest in an ongoing series of papers summarising market trends, drawing on the data collected in GSA’s various databases covering chipsets, devices, spectrum and networks.
Investment in 5G standalone by public and private network operators
5G SA networks can be deployed in a variety of scenarios: as an overlay for a public 5G non-SA (NSA) network, as a greenfield 5G deployment for a public network operator without a separate LTE network, or as a private network deployment for an enterprise, utility, education, government or any other organisation requiring its own private campus network.
GSA has identified 79 operators in 42 countries worldwide that have been investing in public 5G SA networks (in the form of trials, planned or actual deployments). This compares with over 440 operators known to be investing in 5G licences, trials or deployments.
At least 12 operators in nine countries/territories are understood to have launched public 5G SA networks: China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom have all launched 5G SA networks (China Telecom and China Unicom sharing some of the network construction). China Mobile has deployed or upgraded 400,000 base stations to support standalone services, while China Telecom announced its service launch covering more than 300 cities. T-Mobile in the USA has launched 5G SA nationwide using spectrum at 600 MHz, RAIN has launched 5G SA in parts of Cape Town in South Africa to support 5G FWA services and DIRECTV in Colombia has launched 5G SA for FWA in parts of Bogota. China Mobile Hong Kong announced the launch of 5G SA in late 2020. Mass Response (Spusu) has launched a limited network in Austria and is progressing with a wider regional deployment and, most recently, Telefonica and Vodafone have launched 5G SA networks in Germany, STC has announced a commercial launch in Kuwait and Singtel has announced its launch in Singapore (with other operators in Singapore expected to go live very soon). In Saudi Arabia, STC has announced that it has activated its 5G SA networks, although GSA is waiting for confirmation of availability of commercial services for customers before classifying its 5G SA networks as launched. Also, in Saudi Arabia, ITC has announced a soft launch of a 5G SA network. In Australia, Telstra has deployed a 5G core network and has stated it is ready to launch its 5G SA network once a sufficient range of suitable devices is available in the Australian market.
In addition to these three, various other operators are deploying 5G SA and numerous contracts for the deployment of 5G core systems (sometimes in multiple countries) have been announced.
At the moment, there are too few launches to draw clear patterns about the spectrum bands being used for 5G SA. So far, we have seen networks go live using 600 MHz, 2.1 GHz, and C-Band spectrum.
In addition to the investment in 5G SA for public mobile networks mentioned above, a number of organisations are testing, piloting or deploying 5G SA technologies for private networks. GSA has developed a new database tracking private mobile network licences, trials and deployments. It has catalogued the activities of 311 organisations so far. Of those 96 are known to be using 5G networks (excluding those labelled as 5G-ready) for private mobile network pilots or deployments. Of those, 21 are known to be working with 5G SA already, including manufacturers, academic organisations, commercial research institutes, construction, communications/IT services, rail and aviation organisations. Once again, spectrum band data relating to trial and production deployments is sparse, but six of the 5G SA projects identified are using C-band spectrum and two are known to be using mmWave spectrum.
The private mobile networks database is available to GSA Members and Associates.
5G Standalone Update: Member Report – June 2021
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