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Leonard Dahmen

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5G roll-out: Some stand alone, we stand together

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5G SA creates anticipation and question marks. Something new again? Yes. 5G SA is another stage of the latest mobile communications standard. But what does the abbreviation SA stand for? What are the differences to the previous 5G? And what does it mean for our network rollout?

A group of young people taking a selfie against a rural backdrop by the lake.

5G for everyone: With its 5G rollout to date, Telekom already reaches more than 85 percent of people in Germany.

One thing in advance: technology tends to be complex. With this text, we therefore want to explain quite simply quite a lot. Why Deutsche Telekom is rolling out 5G the way it is. And how we want to inspire our customers with mobile communications in the future.

Our 5G rollout is running at full speed. And has been since fall 2019! Telekom uses two frequencies for 5G: 2.1 and 3.6 gigahertz (GHz). We have linked to what this is all about here. Remember: The physical properties of the 2.1-GHz frequency make it ideally suited for nationwide rollout. Deutsche Telekom uses the 3.6 GHz frequency primarily in metropolitan areas.

Where it says 5G, there is 5G inside 

Deutsche Telekom is currently expanding a network standard with the technical designation "5G NSA". What a jumble of letters! It stands for "5G Non-Standalone". That's better. But who or what doesn't stand alone here? Here's the thing: In the architecture of mobile networks, two areas are differentiated: the access network and the core network. In 5G NSA, the core network is still based on its predecessor, 4G. This core network handles the connection. This means that signal traffic and routing take place in the core network. In the so-called control layer. It all runs in the background.

You already have many innovative features of 5G in the NSA variant. For example, higher speed. At the 3.6 GHz frequency, more than one gigabit per second is possible! And these download rates also run over 5G when mobile surfing with 5G NSA - not over 4G. Where it says 5G, there is 5G inside.

5G Standalone cuts the network into slices

As always, technologies continue to evolve. 5G is no exception. In the future, we will therefore offer a variant that does not require 4G in the core network. This evolution is called standalone. In short: SA. The 5G network will then stand completely on its own two feet. This will be an important basis for further technological developments in the future. And certain offerings, such as network slicing.

This technology in particular is very promising: In network slicing, a network operator divides the network into slices. Like a loaf of bread. Each of these slices serves very specific requirements. And they are individually tailored to suit. Business customers in particular will benefit from these network slices. Will private customers like you also benefit? Of course. For example, with a separate network screen for gaming. Smooth gaming, even with high graphics requirements - guaranteed. Sounds great? It will be! And our tests show that it works technically.

Newer is better - really?

It's a reflexive thought: Newer is better. Is that always true? Is 5G SA better than 5G NSA? Already today? Already for all our customers? There are technology lovers who shed tears of joy over the latest of the latest at 5G SA. And it's true: 5G SA will open doors not previously available. But the current technology still has decisive advantages. More speed, for example. At present, the 5G network can only achieve the high download rates at individual locations in conjunction with 4G.  This applies to all German 5G networks. The reason? The so-called carrier aggregation. With this technology LTE and 5G frequencies are bundled to offer more speed. This does not yet work with 5G SA. 

What makes most people happy? When they get what they expect. With 5G: lots of speed, everywhere and as soon as possible. Why should we roll out 5G SA on a large scale now - and deliberately offer less speed? For significantly fewer customers? Moreover, technological progress on the part of network operators only tells half the story. It also depends on device manufacturers. Today, hardly any smartphones support 5G SA. That severely limits the benefits of 5G SA. With standalone, you are literally on your own. Devices that receive our current 5G standard, on the other hand, are widely available. And they are inexpensive.

5G, the "and" technology

Our priority in network rollout is to provide the right 5G to the right number of people. That's what we mean by digital inclusion. The 5G rollout to date has made this possible. We already reach 85 percent of the population in Germany with 5G. That's 70 million people. 70 million people who can benefit from this technological development today. Not just in a few years. But immediately. Never before has a network operator rolled out a new mobile communications standard so quickly for so many people.

"5G is an 'and' technology," Walter Goldenits said. He is Telekom's chief technology officer. What he means by that? 5G can't be reduced to a single keyword. 5G is the 2.1 and 3.6 GHz frequencies. 5G is the network for urban and rural areas. 5G is low latency and fast download. 5G is NSA and SA.

This is how Telekom is expanding 5G

And ...now? Don't panic! 5G SA is coming. But: "Various development steps are still necessary before the complete switchover to 5G SA," Goldenits continues: "Added value is the top priority for our customers. And this added value lies in providing high-speed coverage over as large an area as possible."

5G SA will soon be ready to give users a really good experience. Telekom's technology teams are currently working on this. The user experience has to be right. At all levels. And: It needs an inclusive network. Not a network for a few. But one for everyone. Not just accessible via a few smartphones. But via many affordable devices. Only then will the next level in mobile communications be convincing. Otherwise, the 5G SA network may be faster - but it will only stand on one leg. That is not our goal. Because we won’t stop until everyone is connected. Or, to put it another way: Some stand alone, we stand together.
 

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