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Smartphone brands are preparing upgrades for existing 5G smartphones to support standalone (SA) 5G networks as part of Reliance Jio’s SA network rollout plans.
Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani said last month that most telecom operators are deploying non-standalone 5G (NSAs) in a rush to be the first to go live. Jio on the other hand will launch SA 5G.
In NSA mode, only the RAN (radio access network) is upgraded to 5G, while the core network remains on the existing 4G infrastructure. On the other hand, both RAN and core networks are upgraded to 5G for SA mode. The 5G core includes software-based virtualized network functions that allow telcos to meet various network needs that are not possible in the NSA version of 5G. Jio is expected to launch SA 5G services from Diwali in late October, while Airtel plans to roll out its 5G services in the same month in NSA mode.
According to experts, most 5G phones in India support NSA 5G networks, but consumers will be able to connect to SA 5G once the updates begin. The upgrades will roll out like any other over-the-air (OTA) firmware update on smartphones. Out of the top five smartphone vendors, Xiaomi, Oppo and Realme are among the brands working on the SA 5G update. Samsung and Vivo declined to comment.
“All the 5G devices we have launched in the last year support the 2100 MHz, 1800 MHz, 900 MHz and 3300-3800 MHz bands in NSA mode. SA mode will require an over-the-air update, which we are working on and expect to launch by the time the networks roll out,” said Muralikrishnan B, President, Xiaomi India.
Tasleem Arif, vice president and head of R&D at Oppo India, said the company is in the “process of upgrading” current 5G devices to the SA network in collaboration with telcos. “We have worked with these players to build a comprehensive 5G environment. for users and become one of the leading players in DSS, VONR, SA network slicing and other technologies,” he said. A Realme spokesperson confirmed that the company is testing 5G devices with telcos and will roll out updates gradually.
“SA networks help realize the true potential of 5G networks. With 5G at its core, SA networks enable low-latency and high-speed communications,” said Sachin Kalantri, senior director of product marketing at chipmaker Qualcomm, which also supplies modems to smartphone makers. According to a February 2021 report by analyst firm OpenSignal, based on the company’s SA 5G Deployment Analysis telco T-Mobile in the US, 5G user connection times saw a sharp increase after upgrading to SA mode SA 5G networks showed a 23.8% improvement in latency in urban areas compared to NSA networks.
Latency is the time it takes to transfer data from a source to an endpoint. This is what users actually perceive as “data speed” on a wireless network, while bandwidth allows for how much data can travel at once.