New terminologies and buzzwords have entered our vernacular with the introduction of 5G. We recently prepared a thorough explanation of what mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G bands are to make the subject simple for the general public. For your reference, we also put together a list of the 5G bands that are supported in India and instructions on how to verify them on your phone. Additionally, we provide a simple explanation of the SA and NSA deployment modes in 5G in this post. To identify the differences between these two architectures, we also examine 5G SA vs NSA. On that topic, let’s get started without wasting any time.
Comparing 5G SA and NSA: Which is Better? (2022)
This article contrasts the SA and NSA 5G deployment models and explains what each term means to end customers. The distinctions between SA and NSA 5G architecture are also available. Expand the table below, then navigate to the section you want.
You’ve arrived to the right site if you’re wondering what SA in 5G means. SA 5G, which stands for Standalone 5G, is an end-to-end 5G network by definition. You must first be familiar with network intermediaries in order to comprehend how SA provides a comprehensive 5G network. A base station (also known as the core), radio antennae, and an end device are all components of a mobile network (smartphone, tablets, etc.).
The base station, also known as the core, is totally constructed using the 3GPP’s 5G specification in a SA 5G network (organization that develops standards for mobile telecommunication). Last but not least, the end devices must also support the 5G NR bands. The radio antennas are likewise based on 5G requirements.
All three pieces of equipment in this ecosystem are solely based on the most recent worldwide 5G specifications. This infrastructure doesn’t utilise any 4G/LTE or legacy components that are already in place. Standalone 5G is the name given to this type of end-to-end 5G network. Here, 5G NR radios will be used to transmit not just data but also voice calls (VoNR), providing a better experience.
When firms boast about extremely low latency and unmatched speeds of 10 to 20 gigabits per second (Gbps), they are actually referring to a SA 5G network. Only a handful of telecom firms have installed this equipment since it is exceedingly expensive to do so, making this kind of pure, unrestricted 5G network extremely rare throughout the world. In-depth discussion on this subject is provided further down; however, let’s first learn more about the NSA architecture used in 5G.
After learning about a standalone 5G network, let’s explore NSA in 5G. A non-standalone 5G network is referred to as NSA 5G, and it uses radio antennas that are based on 5G even though its core (base station) is built on 4G/LTEinfrastructure. Of course, as you would have guessed, in order to access this specific form of 5G network, devices need to support 5G. Everything in this case is based on 5G specifications, with the exception of the 4G LTE core (also known as the EPC or Evolved Packet Core).
Although you won’t receive the much-touted 5G characteristics like near-zero latency and unprecedented speed in an NSA 5G radio access network (RAN), it’s a cost-effective method to install a 5G network over the world. The 4G EPC allows telecom operators to swiftly launch 5G network services without having to revamp existing base stations. In fact, to first provide 5G services to the general public, the majority of telecom providers use NSA. The 5G NSA infrastructure will support evenJio 5G and Airtel 5G deployments, which are anticipated to begin by the end of August.
The Standalone 5G network’s 5G core is at the centre of the SA vs. NSA contrast. However, telecom manufacturers like Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and others are presenting a novel method using software to upgrade the 4G EPC core to the 5G core without replacing the hardware, turning an NSA 5G network into SA 5G at a significantly reduced cost. EPC Virtualization, or vEPC for short, is what it is called.
It essentially uses software to virtualize the 4G core in order to make it compatible with 5G architecture. You may profit from SA 5G features like network slicing, scalability, voice conversations via 5G NR radios (VoNR), and more with this technique. T-Mobile is utilising this technology in the US and has already implemented vEPC, upgrading thousands of 4G EPC cores to 5G cores.
Gopal Vittal, the CEO of Airtel, recently stated that the business could simply transition from 5G NSA to 5G SA with a software upgrade, most likely alluding to 4G EPC virtualization, if we’re talking about the implementation of 5G in India. The business will initially remain with NSA 5G, though. Reliance Jio, meanwhile, has been engaged in EPC virtualization for a while now. It purchased Radisys, a vEPC-experienced US-based business, back in 2018. The vEPC is truly the indigenous 5G solution that Jio keeps referencing. For SA 5G services, the business will probably employ its 700MHz airwave.
To sum up, EPC virtualization is significantly assisting in the conversion of the 4G/LTE EPC core to the 5G core when comparing the two SA vs NSA 5G modes. Telecom providers can now offer better speeds without having to pay the high expense of replacing outdated 4G equipment with new 5G ones.
As we discussed above, the main distinction between SA and NSA 5G networks is that SA 5G infrastructure’s whole foundation is built only on 5G specifications. While the core of an NSA 5G architecture is built on 4G/LTE hardware that has been updated to 5G using EPC, radio cells and end devices are built to the 5G standard.
You won’t find ultra-low latency and faster gigabit speeds in an NSA 5G network since telecom operators continue to employ their outdated legacy base stations to save money. Additionally, compared to the NSA 5G network, the SA 5G network uses less energy and gives telecoms greater bandwidth. To give you an accurate figure, the SA 5G network can connect more than 1 million devices at once, which is astounding and can manage vast communication.
Having said that, the initial lack of SA 5G deployment is due to the telecom operators’ high investment costs. Companies will need time to adopt the 5G core in addition to money to replace the outdated 4G/LTE EPC. Telcos are therefore choosing the NSA 5G network in order to accelerate and reduce the cost of 5G rollout. It’s encouraging to know that mobile network operators in the US and Europe also want to implement the real SA 5G core by the end of 2023.
There are generally five advantages of adopting 5G on a SA infrastructure over NSA for end users:
- You get an ultra-low and reliable latency, going as low as 5ms or less on an SA 5G network. This should be helpful while gaming on the cloud, streaming, and more. And in the medical field, it can facilitate remote robotic surgery.
- Apart from that, SA 5G offers far better speed than NSA 5G. It can theoretically achieve a download speed of 10 to 20 Gbps. So, the insane claims of being able to download a 1GB movie in 5 seconds or so might actually come true.
- SA 5G network can scale massively and can handle more than 1 million devices at a time.
- On an SA 5G network, you will get a better voice calling experience with VoNR (Voice over New Radio).
- According to IEEE, SA 5G consumes less power than NSA 5G and comes with a host of energy-saving features.
- As NSA 5G uses the existing 4G core, for telecom operators it s a quick and cost-effective way to offer a 5G network.
- In the absence of VoNR, NSA 5G can offer voice calls over LTE using the 4G core.
- While nowhere close to SA 5G, the download speed is decent on an NSA 5G network, especially when compared to 4G/LTE. You can get speeds up to 1 Gbps, which is quite impressive.
- With DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing), 4G and 5G bands can simultaneously share their spectrums to offer a better experience.
A final consideration is which 5G technology is superior, SA or NSA. As we read through the explainer, it became evident that SA 5G is the genuine 5G network, with all of its components built in accordance with the international 5G specifications. But because adopting a new standard takes time in technology as a whole, NSA 5G is bridging the gap while bringing 5G capabilities, albeit at slower speeds, to the general public.
Telecom operators will undoubtedly transition to a SA 5G infrastructure in a few years, either by virtualizing the EPC or replacing the hardware. Telcos will undoubtedly take into mind SA 5G because it offers various advantages including huge scalability and reduced power consumption. We will have to make do with NSA 5G in the meanwhile, which is actually not that bad.
What does 5G‘s NSA mode do?
In the context of 5G, NSA mode refers to a network architecture where the base station is based on a 4G core, but the radio antennae and smartphones are constructed in accordance with 5G specifications.
What gadgets are 5G SA compatible?
The devices and support that consumers use are unrelated to 5G SA. It’s a technique for network rollout that telecom companies have adopted. Therefore, if your phone supports 5G, it can also utilise the 5G SA network.
5G NSA is not more rapid than 5G SA. This guide explains how NSA 5G is based on a non-standalone 5G network with a base station that continues to use a 4G core. As a result, the speed is drastically decreased when compared to a pure 5G SA network that makes use of the 5G core.
Verizon’s 5G: NSA or SA?
Standalone vs Non-Standalone 5G: Explained
That was all there is to say about the SA and NSA 5G architectures and how they differ from one another. The fact that telecom operators are adopting NSA architecture to quickly create and deploy a 5G network is first encouraging. To enable SA 5G and deliver actual gigabit speeds, we anticipate that telecom companies would invest in and upgrade the 4G EPC to 5G core in the future. Visit our explainer to discover more about the 5Gi standard, which India’s telecom firms may be required to support in addition to the worldwide 5G standards. The list of 5G bands in the US can be found by visiting the article we’ve linked to. Finally, let us know in the comments section below if you have any queries.