By Dr. Jyrki Penttinen, Technology Manager, GSMA North America
The full version of 5G is based on Standalone architecture model which refers to a set of sole 5G radio base stations and core elements. It will be capable of offering the highest performance for the most demanding future services. Following the standards language, the 5G-specific network is called Option 2 and it is the ultimate goal of the 5G operators.
Nevertheless, the deployment of all the new Option 2 elements takes some time in practice. That is why 3GPP has standardized also a set of intermediate modes to speed up the initial commercial phase of 5G. These modes are called Non-Standalone network architecture options. They provide the users with a dual connectivity via both 4G and 5G systems. Each operator can select an option which best suits to their situation to expedite the 5G launches as they all rely on the existing 4G infrastructure. The standardized variants of these cooperative modes are the following:
Option 3: The 5G user equipment (such as mobile phone or IoT device) relies on both 4G and 5G radio base stations, and solely on 4G core. The 4G core is, in fact, not even aware of the new 5G radio signaling interface in this scenario, and the old LTE base stations serve as anchors to interconnect the 5G radio elements and 4G core.
Option 4: The evolution of 5G can lead into an adjusted step of the Non-Standalone mode which relies already on the new 5G core network. In this mode, the 5G base stations act as the anchor for connecting the data directly and from the further evolved 4G base stations between the 5G core.
Option 5: This option provides the operators with possibility to roll out fast wide-area services that benefit from the 5G capabilities such as Mobile Edge Computing and Network Slicing. It fully leverages existing LTE coverage and capacity.
Option 7: This is similar to the Option 3, but the 4G base stations are upgraded to better cope with the delivering of the 5G performance
All these options ensure that mobile network operators have means to deploy 5G infrastructure gradually. Their most important benefit is that they all increase performance while the operator works on the native 5G deployment whereas the final, Option 2 architecture, will offer the fastest data speeds and lowest latencies, and can support densest simultaneously communicating IoT device networks.
More information on the deployment options can be seen at the GSMA Future Networks page.
GSMA has also produced a migration guideline which can be found here.
Dr. Jyrki Penttinen has worked in mobile telecommunications in Finland, Spain, Mexico, and the USA. At present, he assists operator members with the adoption, design, development, and deployment of GSMA specifications and programs. Dr. Penttinen has also authored 5G and other telecommunication books. You can find more of his articles on LinkedIn.
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