Ericsson launches standalone 5G on existing hardware with a single software update

All Ericsson radio system equipment deployed since 2015 is capable of transitioning to standalone 5G New Radio starting now.

5G Telecommunication tower antenna in morning sky Evening sky

Image: sarayut, iStockphoto

Networking Hardware manufacturer Ericsson has released a software update that will allow existing Ericsson hardware manufactured since 2015 to transition to standalone 5G New Radio (NR). 

SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollouts, use cases, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Most current 5G deployments have been hampered by the need to use 4G LTE as an under layer (non-standalone, or NSA 5G). Standalone 5G, on the other hand, eliminates the need for an LTE backbone and should increase speeds and 5G reach as a result.

"This will allow service providers to add 5G NR to existing 4G sites with a simpler architecture, or deploy 5G independently in new areas such as factories, to support enterprise applications and services," Ericsson said in a press release

The software update for existing Ericsson devices is designed to improve low-latency networking applications, like AR and VR, autonomous vehicles, and smart factories. "With a super-fast response time, a standalone 5G NR device can connect six times faster to a standalone 5G network than a device operating in NSA mode," Ericsson said.

Ericsson's highlighting of business applications of standalone 5G isn't accidental: This software update allows existing Ericsson hardware to operate on two out of three bands of 5G, low and medium, but doesn't include high band.

SEE: Hiring Kit: 5G Wireless System Engineer (TechRepublic Premium)

5G's three bands are designed for different applications, and as such deliver varying speeds and coverage radii. According to networking industry organization GSMA, the three 5G bands all have important, but differing, roles to play:

  • Low-band 5G have wide area coverage, enabling edge computing and Internet of Things (IoT) systems in rural environments or in large cities. The trade-off for low-band 5G is that it's not nearly as fast.

  • Mid-band 5G encompasses most current or planned 5G networks, and operates in a happy medium of speed and range. Speeds of mid-band 5G networks can vary between 100 and 400 Mbit/s.

  • High-band 5G, also known as mmWave, typically only has around a 1,500-foot range. The trade off for the shorter coverage radius is super fast speeds, with current mmWave systems able to reach up to 1.8GB/s.

High-band 5G will likely be more useful as a last-mile service or in urban 5G cellular deployments where radios can be close to each other to prevent drops in signal strength. Ericsson's new update, on the other hand, makes its existing hardware perfect for getting edge computing and highly reliable 5G networks off the ground in suburban and rural locations.

SEE: 5G smartphones: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

"We are taking the next step in the evolution of 5G by making generally available the software to support standalone 5G NR networks. These standalone capabilities will enable even more use cases and applications," said Ericsson's head of product area networks Per Narvinger.

Cellular providers T-Mobile and Telstra have both deployed Ericsson's standalone 5G NR on their networks, and Ericsson ecosystem partners Qualcomm and MediaTek have already been through interoperability projects that will allow them to start releasing standalone 5G products later in 2020.

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