Telia deploys 5G standalone core with Nokia

In a first for the Nordics and Baltics, Telia has deployed a commercially available 5G standalone core in Finland.

Initially the 5G SA network is only available for select users in 20 geographic areas across Finland, with the rollout to expand later. Nokia supplied the 5G SA core and said it’s also in the process of helping Telia launch standalone in Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden.   

Telia turned on 5G in major cities in Finland (where Nokia supplies gear for the radio access network portion as well) starting with pilot projects in 2019.

Shifting to a 5G SA architecture means the network no longer relies on 4G networks for signaling as it does in 5G non-standalone, and that advanced features can start to take shape. In Wednesday’s announcement Telia highlighted the ability to introduce network slicing and indicated that offerings tied to specific service levels are coming. Network slicing allows operators to virtually partition or carve out network resources to deliver performance based on user or application-specific needs. It’s often held up as a way for service providers to make money from investing in an upgraded 5G network.  

RELATED: How’s 5G standalone doing in the U.S.?

Telia President and CEO Allison Kirkby in a statement said the carrier would offer residential customers wireless broadband with guaranteed speeds and lower latencies for better streaming and gaming, based on 5G SA technology.

“We are excited to launch the Nordic and Baltic region’s first commercially available 5G standalone core network in Finland, and be one of the first in Europe to take 5G SA into full production,” Kirkby said. “With 5G SA we can offer both enterprise and public sector customers new opportunities such as private networks, remote control and automation. At the same time, we will offer our residential customers guaranteed broadband speeds and lower latencies for improved streaming and gaming experiences.”

Along with network slicing, the carrier said an independent 5G SA core network allows for increased capacity, heightened security, lower latency. It’s also designed to connect a large number of devices for massive device connectivity.  

While most early 5G implementations have been NSA, standalone deployments have gotten underway. Some recent October rollouts include Rogers in Canada, which used Ericsson as a vendor, Softbank in Japan and Taiwan Mobile. T-Mobile in the U.S. holds the claim of first nationwide 5G SA launch, while AT&T and Verizon are still working on their respective moves to standalone.

RELATED: T-Mobile notches 4.95 Gbps on 5G standalone network

Dish Network is building a 5G network from the ground up in the U.S. Without a legacy 4G network in the picture, Dish is going straight to 5G SA from the start. Nokia is one of several named Dish suppliers, including for a containerized SA core. Regional carrier UScellular has also tapped Nokia, with completion of its 5G SA deployment expected by the end of 2022.

In the third quarter the Finnish vendor saw its cloud and network services unit grow 12%, which CEO Pekka Lundmark attributed largely to the core network business including 5G. Nokia has over 80 service provider and enterprise 5G SA core customers globally.

For the overall core mobile network market, Nokia ranked as the third leading vendor in the second quarter of 2021 behind Ericsson and Huawei, according to Dell’Oro Group.

RELATED: Ericsson scores 5G core win with Vodafone in the U.K.

Although some operators are shifting to SA, Dell’Oro projected the 5G core market to slow down as service providers remain on the fence about 5G SA decisions. The firm’s August forecast predicts revenues for the 5G core market to drop 17% year over year in Q2 2022.

“We attribute the slowdown to the slow uptake of 5G Standalone (SA) networks. CSPs need to make decisions about which direction to take for 5G SA deployments. CSPs have several options to mull over, with new choices that were not available during the switch from 3G to 4G,” stated David Bolan, Research Director at Dell’Oro Group. “One decision CSPs need to make is about the selection of Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI). NFVI can be procured from a 5G core vendor, a third-party, the public cloud, or another platform like the Rakuten Communications Platform.”