Most of the 5G buzz in the USA is around the three national MNOs and newcomer Dish, but regional provider US Cellular – the fourth largest MNO – is already preparing its 5G Standalone build-out, and aims to have its cloud-native core, supplied by Nokia, commercially active by the end of next year.
US Cellular, which has 5m subscribers, already gets sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave 5G RAN equipment from Nokia, but like most operators, has been deploying in Non-standalone mode with the existing 4G core. Now Nokia will provide hardware, software and services for 5G Standalone, and US Cellular may even leap ahead of AT&T and Verizon in turning on SA, though T-Mobile USA has already done that across its whole 5G footprint.
After well-publicized setbacks with its first 5G RAN architecture, which cost it some significant business with Verizon, Nokia is relying on its containerized 5G core to help make up lost ground, as well as its reworked RAN. It supplies all the top four MNOs plus Dish, which will deploy Nokia’s SA core for its greenfield 5G network.
Nokia says that, globally, it has deployed more than 250 cloud-based core networks and over 70 5G SA cores, though of course, most of the latter are not yet commercially active on nationwide networks.