What is 5G Infrastructure?

5G (acronym of 5th Generation) is the term used to describe the next generation of mobile networks beyond LTE mobile networks. 5G network infrastructure comprises macro and small-cell base stations with edge computing capabilities; in a 5G network, network functions that typically run on hardware become virtualized, working as software.

There are two infrastructure options, standalone infrastructure (SA) and non-standalone infrastructure (NSA). A non-standalone infrastructure is partly based on the existing 4G LTE infrastructure and brings some new technologies such as 5G New Radio (NR). According to Release 15 of the 3GPP standards body of October 2019, the NSA architecture has the 5G RAN and the 5G NR interface working together with the existing LTE infrastructure and the core network. The 5G standard says that while only LTE services are supported, the network has the capabilities offered by 5G NR, such as lower latency.

The standalone infrastructure refers to a 5G network that is not based on LTE networks and has its cloud-native network core that connects to the NR. According to 3GPP release 15, the standalone deployment option consists of user equipment, the RAN – which includes the NR – and the 5G core network. The core 5G network is based on a service-based 5G architecture framework with virtualized network functions.

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