Carriers have been making major investments in deploying 5G networks, but there is plenty more to come – and not just in terms of opening new markets and new spectrum bands. The carriers also are making moves to deploy standalone 5G technology – an evolutionary step from the non-standalone networks that carriers have deployed to date. So what is standalone 5G?

What is Standalone 5G?
While non-standalone 5G shares existing core network infrastructure with 4G, the standalone version uses a new approach to the network core which, as an Ericsson blog post explains, uses a cloud-native approach.

Standalone 5G is designed to boost 5G performance in two important ways.

First, it will provide lower latency in comparison with the non-standalone approach, which should enable it to support real-time and near-real-time applications such as autonomous vehicles and augmented and virtual reality.

Second, standalone 5G is required to support network slicing. As a blog post from test equipment provider Exfo explains, network slicing splits network resources into logical or virtual networks, known as slices, to address use cases with distinct characteristics and service level agreement (SLA) requirements. A slice with a strong SLA for throughput, latency and reliability might be used to support the unique requirements of robotic automation, for example.

Deployment Status
Dish, which will be a new entrant in the mobile market, has been touting its plans to use a standalone approach in the 5G network it plans to build. But according to a report published on the Light Reading website, three of the major U.S. carriers – AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon — also plan to deploy standalone 5G, and all three have indicated deployment plans for this year or next.

It’s worth noting that standalone 5G is just one of two key elements that will underpin carriers’ strategy for low-latency applications. Edge computing via edge data centers are the other key element, as lower latency applications will require cloud resources to be located closer to the end user.

Mobile carriers may not have to bear the full cost of developing an edge data architecture, however. Companies not in the mobile market also are investing in edge computing. Companies making this investment include wireline service providers, traditional data center players and a new category of data center operator focused solely on the network edge.

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