The short answer for what happened in 2023 concerning new 5G Standalone (5G SA) deployments for eMBB networks is ‘not much.’ We witnessed only 12 new 5G SA deployments in 2023, compared to the 18 in 2022. The biggest surprise for 2023 was the lack of 5G SA deployments by AT&T, Verizon, British Telecom EE, Deutsche Telekom, and other Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) around the globe.
However, beneath the surface, these MNOs were building cloud-native dual-mode or converged 5G Cores. The primary focus was migrating their 4G and 5G non-standalone (5G NSA) subscribers to their new respective modern Telco Clouds based on the 5G Core Service-Based Architecture. Much of the heavy lifting was done in 2023, preparing for 5G SA launches in 2024. Some MNOs have already introduced 5G SA Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services and 5G SA services to enterprises. The next step is to open up the MNOs networks to 5G SA services for the consumer market.
There are many benefits for end users when MNOs provide 5G SA services. While all 5G vendors promote these benefits, the following graphic from Ericsson succinctly illustrates the benefits of 5G SA for FWA, the enterprise, and the consumer customer base.
In the blog “Building 5G – what is your best path to the future?” Ericsson summarizes that “Standalone unlocks more use cases for consumers and enterprises. 5G SA will also speed up network slicing opportunities for multiple customer segments, offering an infrastructure for businesses to enable solutions such as smart manufacturing and IoT-driven innovation, while giving consumers a better and more consistent service experience. It is a big step forward for communications service providers, as it enables a more flexible approach to service creation and provision for subscribers.”
What to expect for 2024
We project more 5G SA eMMB networks will launch in 2024 than in 2022, which is greater than 18 new networks. We will see network slicing being more utilized as it matures, lower cost IoT devices as RedCap NR comes to market, 5G VoNR (Voice of NR) will enhance voice communications, and we will see the beginning phases of 5G Advanced based on 3GPP Release 18 being implemented in the second half of 2024. (See our blog, “5G Advanced—what does it mean for the 5G Core market?”). These new services will enable more applications and enrich the communication experience for all users of 5G SA networks. Delloro