5G will not only bring much faster access rates, but also penetrate into every corner of the world through flexible network slicing. It will drive the digital transformation of vertical industries and become the cornerstone of digital society.
With the freeze of R15 standard, the release of 5G spectrum, the maturity of 5G equipment and the accelerated development of 5G terminal chip, 2019 will be the first year for 5G commercialization. At this stage, the focus of mobile operators is gradually shifting from 5G equipment testing and verification to more practical network deployment. This article will discuss the key challenges in 5G network deployment, and give some suggestions to operators who are preparing for 5G deployment.
Choosing the Most Suitable Network Architecture
5G deployment has two architecture options: Standalone (SA) and Non-Standalone (NSA). With NSA, a first-mover advantage can be derived from architecture maturity, but it is only applicable to eMBB services and involves complex coupling with 4G network. SA, as the ultimate target network of 5G, has obvious advantages in new service support, coverage, performance, network flexibility and terminal energy efficiency. At present, the major concerns operators have with SA architecture include network coverage, SA terminal and 5GC maturity.
From the 5G R&D roadmaps unfolded by 5G terminal chip vendors like Qualcomm, Intel and MTK, chipsets released from 2019 onwards will support NSA and SA at the same time; thus for operators starting 5G network construction after 2019, terminal is not a decisive factor in choosing NSA or SA.
Considering the maturity of 5GC, there is no need to have complete features in the initial stage of 5G deployment. Operators can adopt the target architecture in one step, open the interfaces step by step, and introduce the functions in stages, so that the commercial time of 5GC can be advanced to Q1 2019. Therefore, 5GC does not constitute a constraint factor to the commercialization of SA.