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During its annual general meeting, Reliance announced that it will deploy standalone 5G in the country. Since the service was launched sometime in October this year, many are asking what Standalone 5G (SA 5G) is and whether it offers any significant advantage over other Non-Standalone 5G (NSA 5G). With that in mind, let’s look at the difference between the two. But before we do that, it should be noted that a network consists of four components, namely a mobile network, a base station, a radio antenna and a smartphone or tablet.
SA 5G vs NSA 5G
SA 5G is an end-to-end 5G network. This means that the base station and radio antenna are built from the ground up with 5G specifications in mind. Both data and voice are transmitted via 5G radios. In addition to superior voice quality, the deployment of a standalone 5G network offers significantly higher speeds compared to a non-standalone 5G network. Another thing to keep in mind is that building a standalone 5G network will be more expensive, everything has to be built from scratch.
Coming to NSA 5G, this technology can use an existing 4G-based radio station on top of a 5G radio antenna to provide a 5G experience. But compared to Standalone 5G, the speed is lower and the latency is higher because the radio station is based on 4G. The overall voice quality will also be a little lower.
However, it should be noted that NSA 5G networks can be converted to SA 5G networks using EPC or vEPC virtualization. This is a software update that will make the 4G radio station compatible with the updated 5G architecture.
Device support for SA 5G?
Also, not all phones will have SA 5G support. In some cases, manufacturers could push out an OTA update to turn on support for SA 5G. And even if it does, the availability of high-speed SA 5G will depend on your location and network provider. Most of the smartphones sold in India support many auctioned 5G bands. Several mid-range devices like the Redmi K50i and flagship devices like the iPhone 13 support both NSA and SA 5G. We recommend checking whether the device you are buying supports both. You can read more about whether your smartphone is good enough for 5G or not here.
“At Xiaomi India, we have launched more than 20 5G-enabled smartphones in India and with the 5G rollout process currently in full swing, we are working to ensure 5G readiness across our product portfolio in India. While most of our smartphones are NSA ready, we have planned to roll out OTA updates gradually to ensure SA support. To guarantee a smooth experience, most of the smartphones in our portfolio will be functional with SA mode compatibility very soon thanks to timely updates. We are constantly working closely with telecom companies to ensure our users across the country have a seamless transition to 5G,” a Xiaomi spokesperson said in a statement when contacted by indianexpress.com.
However, Reliance Jio’s move to deploy SA 5G could mean faster speeds and voice over 5G and could give it an edge over other networks.