Time will tell who will win the 5G SA vs. NSA battle

While much has been stated about the standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) strategies of building 5G services, a Credit Suisse analysis says that in the short term, none will give a carrier a distinguishing benefit or disadvantage. In SA mode, the network is created entirely on 5G, but in the NSA method, the 5G network is created on an existing layer of 4G network.

While Jio has stated that it will deploy its 5G network in SA form, Airtel and Vodafone Idea are using NSA mode. Moreover, NSA 5G is suitable of enabling the 5G customer use case of increased mobile broadband (faster speeds). Most telcos across the world have deployed their 5G services in NSA mode.

The SA 5G infrastructure, notably handsets that enable the mode, is indeed emerging. Another analyst stated that in nations with strong 5G penetration, such as the United States and South Korea, about 10% or less of devices enable SA 5G. Jio has launched a 5G standalone (SA) network, which the business claims is ideal for network slicing for low latency, IOT applications, and inside penetration.

Bharti management, on the other side, has claimed that its NSA 5G plan will allow reduced running costs (35% cost/GB) relative to a standalone deployment in the 700 MHz band. As per the GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association), approximately 22% of telecoms that have implemented 5G are engaging in or researching SA 5G roll out, with one-third having installed SA 5G by August 2022.

In other words, when business use cases emerge, Indian telecoms such as Airtel and Vodafone Idea would eventually convert to 5G over SA mode. As a consequence, according to Credit Suisse, Airtel may need to buy extra sub-1GHz spectrum over the next 3-4 years as it converts to SA 5G.