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5G Standalone: What's So Exciting About It?

by Blogs & Opinions
Article Image The much-anticipated 5G Standalone has arrived. T-Mobile is the first to launch it in the USA, covering 250 million people across 7,500 cities and towns, including rural areas. China Mobile is the only other service provider to launch it in Hong Kong. Overall, 58 operators are currently investing (November 2020) in 5G SA, including those who have launched.

5G SA makes a break from 5G non-standalone by integrating the evolved packet core or the signaling brain of the 5G network, which controls the network's devices. It prepares the groundwork for new services unique to this generation of networks, such as network slicing to customize enterprise services across multiple networks.

5G non-standalone focused on fast delivery of mobile broadband media-rich services with lower latencies. 5G SA makes ultra-reliable, low-latency communications (ULLLC) possible for an entirely new breed of applications. An expanded signaling capacity of the evolved packet core of the 5G SA affords control of Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), which is about providing connectivity to billions of devices that intermittently transmit data. Smart factories, augmented and virtual reality, haptic feedback for remote surgery, and drones for emergency management are some of the use cases that are best optimized with 5G SA. These use cases need rapid interaction, such as fans viewing live games in the stadium from multiple angles, extreme reliability such as remote maneuvering of drones for emergency management, and analysis of patients' pulse from a remote location.

5G SA will enable a new generation of performance-critical applications

5G SA's enterprise use cases gained much greater attention than its consumer applications, which are no less important. The programmability of the 5G SA's cloud-native, all-virtual network speeds up network slicing that can also interlink across multiple networks. End-to-end advanced network operators can customize service quality, such as data speed, quality, latency, reliability, security and more to tailor services to their customers. All this can be packaged or customized in real-time. According to GSMA, network slicing, combined with other capabilities, will provide a revenue opportunity worth $300 billion by 2025.

5G supports stringent performance (for example, ~1 ms) and reliability requirements (for example, <10⁻⁵ packet drop rate) of critical applications such as industrial Internet Automation of robotics in factories. Computer vision helps to configure robots for individual product batches and then reconfigure them. Real-time changes in robots' settings requires high reliability, and computer vision requires processing massive volumes of data with low latency. 5G SA meets all three requirements (performance, reliability and low latency) for the optimal functioning of smart factories.

Operators will need to support extremely high connection density as well. Some use cases will require highly reliable, low-latency communication for applications like Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Vehicle-to-everything (V2X - including vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure). Only mMTC, which supports up to 1 million devices per km, can enable such applications. Supply chain track and trace applications, especially those for individual items and packages, are examples of high-density applications.

Today, retail customers look to third-screen multimedia applications before they return to stadiums. They want to replay moments in the game or view them from different angles on mobile devices or via virtual reality. Similarly, other experiences such as remotely watching musicals and concerts outside of their region are emerging. Doctors remotely treating patients need haptic feedback, the same feel of patients as in their physical presence, which becomes possible with ultra-reliability.


5G SA's evolved packet core raises signaling to control a complex interdependent infrastructure that complements other attributes of much lower latency, reliability and bandwidth. It provides latitude to experiment with myriad business models for immersive experiences, safety in transportation, communication and collaboration, remote services, visibility into business activity, public safety and law enforcement, and process automation in the enterprise, public sector and consumer segments.

ó Ashish Jain, CEO, KAIROS Pulse

Photo by Tobias on Unsplash

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