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14 July 2020

Ericsson unveils 5G Standalone platform

Ericsson has announced its 5G NR Standalone (SA) platform for low-band and midband spectrum. This will work with its dual-mode cloud-native core, announced earlier this year, to provide a full commercial SA system. All Ericsson’s radios developed since 2015 can move to 5G NR SA with a software upgrade.

“These standalone capabilities will enable even more use cases and applications,” said Per Navinger, head of product area networks at Ericsson, in a statement. He said he expects operators to add 5G NR to existing 4G sites and also to deploy it in new networks, especially in unconnected environments such as factories.

Devices that support SA can connect to a 5G network six times more quickly than a device operating in NSA mode, Ericsson says, and the combination of eliminating the 4G anchor on which NSA relies – which adds latency to the process – with the sliceable core, should enable a wide range of new use cases, especially those needing very low latency or real time processing.

Among its prominent triallists and development partners are Australia’s Telstra, which has launched a cloud-native 5G core and some SA base stations this year, and T-Mobile USA. The latter completed a series of SA tests in May, working with Cisco, Ericsson and Nokia on the network/core side.

Greenfield operators – both big names like Dish and Rakuten, and more specialized enterprise or private providers – have the luxury of being able to move directly to SA, and this is increasingly being tied into emerging open platforms. Greenfields are better placed to make the double migration – to cloud-native 5G and to open systems – because their processes, staffing mix and architectures are new and they are starting life in the cloud.

But from the point of view of the big equipment vendors, there is far higher risk – the attraction of new customers is tempered by the relative ease with which new operators can opt for new suppliers. So far, despite being a member of O-RAN Alliance, Ericsson has not joined Nokia and Samsung in launching O-RAN networks or even committing to them. But that may change if more MNOs start to specify O-RAN or other open interfaces such as Small Cell Forum’s nFAPI. Dish, for instance, plans to use Fujitsu for O-RAN virtualized radio units and Altiostar and Mavenir for cloud-native 5G software.