Thirty-nine mobile network operators (MNOs) have switched on cloud-native 5G that utilizes a standalone (SA) core as part of their shift to a pure 5G network, according to Dell’Oro Group.
Initially, these MNOs are targeting services such as faster and more consistent download speeds using carrier aggregation. Their services will evolve, however, as they start to bring on long-promised enterprise features like low latency, ultra-high reliability and network slicing to the fore beginning in 2024.
The breakout cloud-native 5G SA stars so far are:
Why: Rogers worked with Ericsson to launch the first commercial 5G SA network in Canada in March 2022. No reports yet on how the moose are taking to ultra-low latency.
Why: Singtel picked Ericsson for its SA core when it launched the network in May 2021. The operator claims to be the first in the world to achieve nationwide coverage with 5G SA. Although this perhaps shouldn’t be that big of a surprise, given the size of the city-state is three times the size of Manhattan. So small, lah!
8. NTT DoCoMo
Why: NTT DoCoMo did the standalone shuffle with NEC in December 2021. Qualcomm has been crowing about the dual-connectivity features of the network, which allow you to use compatible devices — of which there aren’t that many yet — to combine sub-6GHz and millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G for download domination.
Why: Telstra has worked with Ericsson to switch on 5G SA on the largest 5G network in Australia. The operator said that an Android 13 firmware update would enable Samsung S22, S22+, and S22 Ultra smartphones to operate seamlessly on the SA network.
6. Vodafone Germany
Why: Vodafone Germany was the first operator in Europe to go standalone in April 2021. Vodafone has worked with Ericsson to deploy a 5G SA core. Wunderbar!
5. Reliance Jio
Why: Reliance Jio is working on the rollout of its 5G SA program, which Reliance refers to as true 5G. Jio, er, stands alone in offering 5G SA in India so far.
4. Dish Wireless
Why: Dish Wireless is actually using the AWS cloud to host its SA 5G service. Dave Mayo, EVP of Network Development at Dish, told Silverlinings that the greenfield operator couldn’t have met its FCC-mandated targets otherwise. “It would have taken us a lot longer to have built out the core network and the switching centers in order to be able to host that ourselves,” he said.
Why: KT launched South Korea’s first 5G SA network with Samsung in July 2021. In fact, Samsung provided the radio access network (RAN), as well as the core and devices that can run on the network.
2. China Mobile
Why: China Mobile claims the largest cloud-native 5G SA network yet deployed. Working with ZTE, the operator started launching the 5G SA network in the fall of 2020. Dell’Oro Group reports that China Mobile has also revealed 11,000 mobile private network projects based on the standalone core.
1. T-Mobile U.S.
Why: The OG SA operator, T-Mobile switched on its nationwide pure 5G 600MHz network back in August 2020, its faster 2.4GHz network followed suit in November 2022. In December last year, T-Mobile rolled out a cloud-native, converged core from Cisco that handles all of its 5G SA and 4G LTE traffic.
The outlier: Rakuten Mobile
Why: Rakuten Mobile is the odd one out in this list. We felt they should be mentioned, we just weren’t sure where to place them. Rakuten is unusual because they were cloud native from the start.
“They have been cloud-native since day one with their 4G network,” commented Dell’Oro research director Dave Bolan. “They only launched 5G [non-standalone architecture] so far. And it is cloud-native. No 5G SA yet.”
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