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NSA Or SA Architecture, Choice Is Not Difficult

NSA or SA architecture, choice is not difficult

In June of this year, 3GPP announced that the 5G independent networking (SA) standard was officially frozen. China's 5G construction adopts the latest frozen SA architecture, or the non-independent networking (NSA) architecture that was frozen as early as December 2017, which triggered a hot debate in the market.

1. NSA or SA market is divided, SA will undoubtedly be the mainstream deployment method

The 5G network architecture consists of two independent SAs and an NSA combined with a 4G network:

Independent networking mode (SA): refers to the creation of a new 5G network, including new base stations, backhaul links, and core networks. While SA introduces new network elements and interfaces, it will also adopt new technologies such as network virtualization and software-defined networks on a large scale, and combine it with 5GNR. At the same time, the technical challenges faced by its protocol development, network planning and interoperability will be Beyond 3G and 4G systems.

Non-independent networking mode (NSA): Non-independent networking refers to the deployment of 5G networks using existing 4G infrastructure. The 5G carrier based on the NSA architecture only carries user data, and its control signaling is still transmitted through the 4G network.

Operators can determine upgrade sites and zones based on business needs, and do not necessarily require complete contiguous coverage.

Recently, whether the domestic 5G network construction will adopt the independent networking mode (SA) or the non-independent networking mode (NSA) has triggered a heated discussion in the market.

1.1. Where is the advantage of the NSA?

The SA architecture is simpler and the NSA architecture is slightly more complicated. Compared with SA, the advantages of NSA mainly include:

1) Expand 5G coverage with the current mature 4G network. Since the transmission power of the mobile terminal is limited, the coverage of the 5G network is mainly limited by the uplink (that is, the mobile phone sends a signal to the base station), and the coverage of the 5G single station can be expanded by the method of synchronizing with the 4G (NSA);

2) The NSA standard ends earlier and the product is more mature. The NSA is earlier than the SA standard, and the product roadmap is correspondingly early maturity. At present, China's 5G promotion group has basically completed most of the testing work of the NSA;

3) There is no need to build a new core network. Under the NSA network, the 5G base station will utilize the existing 4G core network, eliminating the construction of the 5G core network.

1.2. Compared with SA, the NSA architecture also has the following disadvantages.

1) The 4G live network must still be changed. As mentioned above, the NSA is a networking mode in which the 4G network and the 5G network are converged, so it is bound to involve upgrading the 4G existing network (including wireless and core networks); at the same time, the 5G NR application band is higher and the coverage is smaller. There is 4G network density that cannot meet 5G coverage.

2) The supplier structure of the existing equipment cannot be adjusted. In the NSA networking mode, the NSA needs to be interoperable and the NSA needs to be interoperable. If the equipment of the original network manufacturer needs to be purchased, the operator cannot re-divide the investment structure of the equipment manufacturer.

3) The existing network cannot meet the 5G high reliability and low latency requirements. Since the NSA does not need to build a new 5G core network, and the NSA needs 4G wireless air interface (NSA wireless anchor point is 4G), the existing 4G core network architecture and 4G air interface cannot meet the requirements of 5G for delay and transmission reliability.

1.3. The NSA architecture helps to build a network quickly, but it costs more than SA's direct network capital expenditure.

Under the premise of continuous coverage, the number of 5G base stations required for SA or NSA dense urban scenes is the same. Considering that the station spacing of domestic 4G existing networks in dense urban areas is already within 300 meters, we believe that the link budget analysis of 5G base stations in dense urban outdoor scenes, we believe that based on the 4G/5G base station common site, SA network architecture The solution can achieve continuous coverage of 5G (under the NSA architecture, 5G and 4G base stations are also required);

The single base station price of the SA base station is more advantageous. Since NSA requires 5G and 4G manufacturers, SA does not. Therefore, under the NSA architecture, the bargaining power of operators when purchasing 5G base stations is bound to weaken.

If the domestic 5G commercial license is issued in advance, the NSA will become the pre-establishment network selection of some operators, but will eventually go to the SA architecture. On the one hand, the NSA provides a realistic choice for operators to quickly build a network (the product is more mature, no need to change the core network, etc.), but since the 5G 3GPP R16 version supporting enhanced URLLC will be frozen in December 2019, we believe that the operator will be in the future. If you want to support R16, then operators will gradually choose the SA architecture for networking, in order to achieve commercial support for 5G networks for low-latency, high-reliability new applications such as autonomous driving, industrial interconnection, and telemedicine.

Based on the above realistic conditions, we assume that: 1) Compared with the SA architecture 5G base station, the single station price of the NSA rack construction network scheme will be 30%-50% expensive, plus the renovation cost of the 4G station, which is expected to be at the same scale. The investment in the NSA architecture will be 60%-80% more expensive than the SA architecture;

2) Considering the country's higher 5G network construction requirements, if the operator chooses the NSA architecture when the network is started in 2019, it is expected that 30% of the total 5G construction scale will be completed before the introduction of the SA architecture (2019-2020). The remaining 70% of the construction volume will choose the SA architecture.

Therefore, compared with the direct adoption of SA, the network construction method of the SAA after the first NSA is adopted, and the total investment scale of the 5G wireless network construction is expected to increase by 18% to 24%. (ie: 0.3 × (1.6 ~ 1.8) + 0.7 = (1.18 ~ 1.24)).

in conclusion:

1) Selecting the NSA architecture can help operators achieve faster 5G network construction in the initial stage, but in the future, in order to achieve continuous coverage and support all 5G scenarios, the future evolution to SA is imperative;

2) Compared with the direct use of the SA rack construction network, the network is built faster with the SAA after the first NSA, but the total capital expenditure will also increase by about 18%-24%.

2. No matter what kind of network architecture is used, the pace of 5G commercial will not slow down.

Based on market-based debates, we believe that regardless of the network architecture adopted by the final domestic operators, the pace of 5G commercialization will not slow down, and the scale of construction and investment will not shrink. The next step in the domestic work will be the division of the 5G spectrum in order to achieve pre-commercialization during the year. In 2019, with the maturity of terminal chips and the introduction of terminal categories, domestic 5G will be fully commercialized in 2020. First, 5G, which is commercially available in 2020, is an important part of the “Made in China 2025” blueprint. 5G is not only an enhancement of mobile communication technology, but also an era of Internet of Everything. It also includes application scenarios of mMTC (large-scale Internet of Things) and URLLC (low-latency communication). The 5G network will be the foundation of the industrial Internet, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and other fields. Second, China's power is getting stronger and stronger, and it will make full use of the scale advantage of the industry. There are more and more participating enterprises in China's communication industry chain, from several core equipment vendors to dozens of enterprises from operators to terminals. The voice of Chinese enterprises in the formulation of 3GPP standards is not comparable to 4G, at 5G. In the follow-up standard meeting, the advantages of the industrial scale will be fully utilized to gain benefits, and the opportunity to exert influence will not be abandoned because of the impact of the trade war. According to our speculation, after the first standard of 5GNR is frozen, the speed of the industrial chain will be greatly improved.

1. The main equipment supplier: It is estimated that Huawei and ZTE will take about 6 to 9 months from the standard freeze to the trial commercial equipment, that is, Q1 to Q2 next year. Huawei and ZTE will be implemented earlier as Chinese manufacturers of the first echelon. It is predicted that Ericsson and Nokia will be later than Chinese manufacturers.

2, terminal manufacturers: upstream chip manufacturers research and development cycle is also 9 months, is expected to mature next year Q2 ~ Q3. Chip products need to be tested for interoperability with devices. After the chip products are ready, the terminal enterprises need to debug for a period of time. It is expected that the smartphones in mass production will be in the first half of next year from Q4 to 2020.

3, CPE products (customer resident equipment): may appear in Q3 next year, but the penetration rate in China is not high, the public mainly accepts the equipment of the smart machine

NSA or SA architecture, choice is not difficult

3. Challenges brought by the NSA architecture to the terminal

3.1 Features of 5G terminals under the NSA architecture: processing 4G and 5G network data simultaneously

Different from the SA architecture, the 5G terminal only needs to process the data of the 5G network. The 5G terminal under the NSA architecture needs to process data from the 4G network and the 5G network at the same time. Therefore, supporting the NSA architecture is bound to be more complicated for the design of the 5G terminal. What are the challenges in designing terminals that support NSA-based 5G networks?

3.2 Advantages of 5G terminals under the NSA architecture: mature earlier and higher downlink rate

First, let's talk about the advantages of 5G terminals under the NSA architecture compared to the SA architecture:

1) Because the NSA standard is frozen earlier, chips supporting the NSA architecture will be born earlier, and terminals such as mobile phones supporting the NSA architecture are expected to be commercialized earlier;

2) Because the terminal needs to connect 4G and 5G networks at the same time in the NSA architecture, the NSA can superimpose the rate of the 4G network compared to the SA, so it will have an advantage in the downlink (base-to-terminal) rate.

3.3 Challenges of 5G terminals under the NSA architecture: more complex designs, higher device costs, and affected RF performance

At the same time, because the 5G terminal needs to access the 4G network at the same time under the NSA architecture, it needs to support dual connectivity of 4G and 5G networks, which will inevitably bring new challenges to 5G terminals:

1) Due to the large number of commercial frequency bands of 4G (in the domestic case, the 4G frequency band includes 800MHz, 900MHz, 1.8GHz, 1.9GHz, 2.1GHz, 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz, etc.), Customized (that is, only support a specific 4G frequency band), otherwise in order to simultaneously consider different 4G frequency bands, the terminal supporting dual connectivity will be very complicated in the design of the radio frequency;

2) In order to meet the two-way signal connection of the terminal at the same time, it is necessary to introduce the component of the duplexer (shown by the red circle in the above figure), which is bound to bring about an increase in cost and loss of performance (the duplexer will bring performance) The loss is mainly because the addition of one device is bound to bring insertion loss, and the insertion loss will affect the transmission power of the terminal, thus affecting the coverage performance of the terminal);

3) Supporting simultaneous transmission of data over multiple frequency bands may introduce intermodulation and harmonic interference, which may affect the performance of the terminal (such as uplink and downlink rates and coverage capabilities).

Therefore, compared with the SA architecture, the 5G terminal supporting the NSA architecture will mature earlier and the downlink rate will be faster, but it is more challenging in design, and the cost on the RF device will be higher, while the performance is higher. Will decline.

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