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T-Mobile US claims ‘significant’ 5G standalone architecture firsts

US operator partners with comms technology leaders to achieve world’s first milestones for standalone architecture 5G

T-Mobile US has announced what it claims are several important world’s-first milestones for standalone architecture (SA) 5G.

SA 5G has been described as “real” 5G, enabling network slicing and advancing industry-dedicated use cases. In making its claims, T-Mobile used the phrase “inventing the future takes a village”, recognising that the advancement of 5G depends on a series of partnerships among a number of key stakeholders within the 5G ecosystem.

“Powerful and reliable wireless networks are more important than ever, and these milestones mark a huge step forward for the entire wireless ecosystem,” said Neville Ray, president of technology at T-Mobile. “Standalone 5G, paired with the broad and deep network we’re building by combining the assets of T-Mobile and Sprint, will accelerate 5G adoption and services and transform wireless.”

First among these partners with T-Mobile US is Swedish comms tech provider Ericsson, from whom the operator has been able to use technology to hold the first SA 5G data session between commercial modems from two suppliers on a production network.

Other elements of the Ericsson partnership have involved the first low-band SA 5G voice call using evolved packet system (EPS) fallback to VoLTE, enabling high-quality voice services using VoLTE in the SA architecture, while the industry is fully developing voice over new radio (VoNR) 5G technology and also the first low-band VoNR call on a production network. VoNR allows for voice calls to run over 5G.

The partnership has also seen the first video over new radio (ViNR) call on a production network. ViNR allows for high-quality video calls to run natively, instead of an over-the-top (OTT) data service. In other words, said Ericsson, no app is needed. Several 5G firsts have also been claimed, with a commercial smartphone on a production network, including the first low-band SA 5G data session, first call with EPS fallback, and first VoNR and ViNR calls.

“With 5G networks rolling out across the globe, we’re now stepping up to the next level – preparing the world for standalone 5G,” said Fredrik Jejdling, executive vice-president and head of networks at Ericsson. “Using Ericsson commercial products together with T-Mobile and our ecosystem partners, we have demonstrated the potential of standalone 5G on low bands. We have achieved the latest technology milestones in a concerted effort that advances 5G technology.”

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News of Ericsson’s work with T-Mobile comes just days after it announced a 5G standalone products deal with Australian comms service provider Telstra. The deal enables Telstra to upgrade its 5G radio access network (RAN) coverage footprint across Australia, connecting a cloud-native 5G core network to handle new 5G standalone traffic. 

This gives Telstra the capability to run 5G independent of existing 4G network technology. 5G SA devices are expected to be commercially available in Australia later this year.

Ericsson announced in December 2019 that it was supporting Telstra’s goal to build a web-scale core network and deliver 5G to consumers and enterprise customers, with the containerisation of core network functions allowing greater orchestration and automation of networks.

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