Current 5G Technology Deploys On Non Standalone Architecture

“It’s in a standalone architecture environment that enterprise and industrial applications will start to come in, because ultra-low latency enables that,” Muniff Kamaruddin explains.

Current 5G Technology Deploys On Non Standalone Architecture

The current 5G technology is deployed on non-standalone architecture (NSA), which means that the 5G network is still complemented with the 4G network. Muniff Kamaruddin, chief technology officer of EdgePoint Infrastructure Sdn Bhd and CEO of EdgePoint Towers Malaysia says this will be the mainstay for the next few years before 5G is available everywhere, after which a move to standalone architecture can happen.

“It’s in a standalone architecture environment that enterprise and industrial applications will start to come in, because ultra-low latency enables that,” he explains.

“Right now, the interest from enterprises is more on setting up their own private network for the industrial use of 5G. For example, manufacturing companies in the past had to put in fibre in their premises because that’s the only way that they could get high throughput. But with 5G, they don’t really need to do that.”

“The early use cases will be in terms of surveillance and the usage of high-definition cameras and environmental control, which are all done in real time since 5G offers almost real-time capabilities with lags of less than four milliseconds. Eventually, low-latency applications will give rise to mission-critical applications, such as driverless vehicles.”

Standalone Architecture is simple, easy to maintain and most budgetary to cost. This architecture is suitable for less critical systems that can accept some downtime to recover or upgrade the system.

Non-standalone 5G uses a combination of existing 4G LTE architecture with a 5G RAN. Standalone 5G, on the other hand, uses a 5G RAN and a cloud-native 5G core. Prior to its release, 5G had been long touted as a major upgrade to cellular networking technology.

Malaysia’s 5G rollout has been described as “tumultuous” from the setting up of Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) to the deployment of 5G infrastructure and network nationwide. DNB and the MNOs were able to reach a compromise in mid-2022 following extensive discussions, allowing for the deployment of 5G to take place among the rest of Malaysia’s mobile network operators.

Today, Malaysians have access to ultra-fast download speeds in some urban areas. Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) on behalf of unifi Mobile and YTL Communications Sdn Bhd on behalf of Yes — having struck an agreement with DNB in December last year — were the first two operators in the country to provide 5G access to their respective customers within coverage areas.

But there is still a lot more to be done on the back end to ensure that Malaysia’s 5G deployment is uninterrupted and remains inclusive in both urban and rural areas. Malaysia also needs to play catch-up as countries in the region are significantly ahead in their 5G journey. Infrastructure and hardware remain a sizeable hurdle as they are capital expenditure (capex) heavy.

Muniff Kamaruddin, chief technology officer of EdgePoint Infrastructure Sdn Bhd and CEO of EdgePoint Towers Malaysia, stresses that time is of the essence. Urbanites would be the first to get a taste of 5G, where the immediate focus will be on fast speeds and larger capacities. Rural folk might need to wait for a while as DNB’s rollout to the rest of the country would take a couple more years.

Nevertheless, affordability is key right now, from the packages that MNOs are offering to the setting up of infrastructure to fill connectivity pockets. For now, early adopters such as YTL are already providing pricing indicators that users can expect; however, the availability of reasonable 5G-compatible smartphones is another hindrance for users and smartphone pricing needs to stabilise.

“Just like previous technologies that came into the market like 3G and 4G, the price points will come down eventually. How we see it is that adoption is still dependent on the packages and affordability of the right devices,” he says.

“But the initial applications will be more focused on faster speeds because if you ask the younger generation, they want everything to be done fast. Later on, we will eventually move on to the other benefits such as ultra-low latency, as well as massive connectivity to IoTs (Internet of Things).”

SAS Institute Malaysia managing director Cheam Tat Inn surmises that the key vertical industries to adopt 5G will be manufacturing, healthcare, automobile and utilities, where new business values will be unlocked to drive business growth.

He observes many enterprises setting up innovation incubation teams and cross-industry collaboration projects to take advantage of the 5G network slicing and low latency’s unique proposition. Some are using data analytics at the edge to derive real-time data insights in support of mission-critical applications and business process automation.

Edge computing is a distributed com­puting paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to the sources of data. This is expected to improve response times and save bandwidth.

“We will see more 5G-driven industry-specific ecosystem digital platforms being formed to optimise the 5G investments while pushing boundaries to create innovative enterprise solutions. Solutions will slowly evolve to cater for the advancement that 5G may bring but, at the same time, address the needs of the end customers who want reliable services, a smarter environment and the improvement that technology brings in everyday life,” says Cheam.

When combined with the 5G network, edge AI has the potential to deliver improved business outcomes for autonomous vehicles monitoring, energy-efficiency optimisation and smart buildings. Muniff says there is no need to build redundant infrastructure when existing ones on the ground can be used instead. EdgePoint, which is involved in building out 5G infrastructure, will now be able to monetise existing locations.

To ensure the fast rollout of 5G, this strategy is the most conducive, which is what DNB has done to provide immediate upside to the ecosystem, says Muniff. On top of that, the 5G coverage radius is smaller compared with 3G and 4G, which means that more sites are needed to ensure good coverage.

“A certain percentage of sites that DNB has chosen are for co-locating using existing infrastructures. When looking at potential technologies, parties that want to make use of the 5G network can co-locate at our locations.

Now, things like micro edge computing become interesting for us because there is a need to build out mini, on-the-go data centres closer to where the subscribers are.”

Muniff explains micro edge computing is computing capacity that is even closer to where the mobile phones and users are. With archaic architecture, data needs to be carried across to connection points, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away.

“Users will get to enjoy very low latency and take advantage of the capabilities that can come from 5G. It’s not just for MNOs but content providers as well.”

Originally published at The Edge Markets