What is standalone vs non standalone architecture?

Standalone (SA) architecture in 5G is a fully independent network with its own 5G core and radio access, providing end-to-end 5G capabilities. In contrast, non-standalone (NSA) architecture relies on existing 4G infrastructure for initial connectivity and introduces 5G radio access, making it an interim step in the transition to full 5G deployment.

What is standalone vs non standalone architecture?

Standalone (SA) Architecture:

  1. Independence: In SA architecture, the 5G network is entirely independent and doesn’t rely on any existing network technology like 4G or older generations. It has its own core network and radio access.
  2. Core Network: SA architecture includes a 5G core network (5GC), which is designed to fully utilize the capabilities of 5G. The 5GC is responsible for various functions like network management, authentication, and routing of data.
  3. 5G Radio Access: SA architecture uses 5G radio access technology, which includes a new air interface (NR – New Radio). This provides improved data rates, lower latency, and better support for massive IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
  4. End-to-End 5G: SA architecture is considered the “pure” 5G deployment because it provides end-to-end 5G capabilities. This means that all communication, from the device to the core network, is handled by 5G technology.

Non-Standalone (NSA) Architecture:

  1. Reliance on Existing Infrastructure: NSA architecture leverages existing 4G LTE infrastructure to establish initial connectivity. It uses 4G as an anchor for communication setup.
  2. Core Network: In NSA, the core network (5GC) is not fully utilized initially. Some functions, especially control signaling and mobility management, are still handled by the 4G core network (Evolved Packet Core or EPC).
  3. 5G Radio Access: NSA architecture introduces 5G radio access (NR) for data transmission. This allows for faster data speeds and lower latency compared to 4G.
  4. Evolutionary Step: NSA is often seen as an intermediate step in the deployment of 5G. It allows network operators to introduce 5G capabilities while reusing their existing 4G infrastructure. This is particularly useful during the early stages of 5G adoption.

SA architecture is a standalone 5G network with its own core and radio access, offering the full potential of 5G technology. NSA architecture, on the other hand, starts with 4G infrastructure and introduces 5G radio access for enhanced performance, making it a transitional approach. The choice between the two architectures depends on the operator’s strategy and the maturity of 5G deployment in a given area.

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