The development speed of 5G networks is far beyond imagination.  With the commercialization of 5G, terminal manufacturers have launched many 5G supported mobile phones and mobile routers. Besides terminals, the 5G network deployment is also very important to achieve the rapid popularization and development of 5G. At present, there are two main ways of networking: non-standalone networking (NSA) and standalone networking (SA). What are the 5G NSA and 5G SA? Are there any differences between them? In this article we will show you the details.

What is 5G NSA?
In the first place, we have the 5G NR NSA. The NSA means Non-Standalone network, which has the characteristics of mature technology and wide coverage. The essence of the NSA is to transform the existing 4G network and connect it to the 5G core network, which can bring the advantage of high bandwidth of 5G network, increase the popularity of the 5G network, and reduce the cost of replacing network replacement in the short term.

What is 5G SA?
On other side, SA means Standalone mode. Its essence is to use a combination of 5G core network and 5G base station, which can bring all the characteristics and functions of 5G network. Compared with NSA networking, SA requires continuous investment of brand-new equipment, and the cost is higher than NSA networking.
The SA completely gets rid of the dependence on 4G, and a purer and independent networking solution. It is clearly the ultimate option for 5G, and it has more advantages in technology, but the time has not yet come. SA independent networking is still in the experimental stage and the commercialization still needs time.

From above introduction, we know that the biggest difference between NSA and SA networking is the cost. The implementation of SA is expensive.

The second essential difference is the network speed. With 5G SA, we can achieve up to 10 times more speed than with 5G NSA under the same conditions.
Thirdly, there are notable differences between the 5G NSA and the 5G SA is in terms of latency. The NSA can have a latency of about 15 ms, while in the SA networking mode, the latency can reach up to 1 ms.
Lastly, 5G NR SA expands more possibilities on the basis of traditional services, including: URLLC, mMTC, and specific services for corporate customers, etc. You can also assign “slices” to individuals, businesses or apps in need. For applications with high standards of experience, proprietary network resources can be isolated and supplied separately. In fact, through the end-to-end network slicing technology, different QoS (quality of service requirements) can be provided for different vertical industries, so as to support various kinds of services.

5G SA – The Future
From a technical point of view, NSA is definitely far behind the SA, but NSA can use existing equipment and save investment to quickly deploy 5G, which is the key for operators to use.
To sum up, SA will be the ultimate form of 5G. Operators say that 5G SA will be officially commercialized within this year, and NSA will only be used as a transitional and rapid deployment and old benefit scheme, which will gain short-term application as the early adoptable of 5G. However, in the long term, NSA will eventually give way.

Keep in mind that not all mobile devices will be compatible with both NSA & SA networks. Therefore, if you are going to acquire a new 5G device, it will be necessary to get a 5G NSA and 5G SA compatible terminal.

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September 2021