22:55 PM

Standalone Core Technology Taps into Power of 5G and Benefits Consumers

We asked our Chief Technology Officer, Mike Irizarry, about what 5G Standalone is, what its impact will be and how it supports our customers now and in the future:

How Has Technology Evolved? 
We’ve seen the wireless experience improve with each evolution of technology, from 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G. UScellular started deploying 5G in 2019, and today sites that carry 80% of our customer traffic have 5G enabled. As many of us have experienced, 5G provides consumers and businesses with greater bandwidth and lower latency. This lets more devices be connected to send and receive data at any one time and offers lower delay in the processing of data. The technology evolution continues as we look for new ways to create a better experience for customers and collectively tap into the power of 5G. 

One of the ways to expand the applications of 5G technology is by using standalone 5G (5G SA) core network technology. On the horizon, 5G SA technology improvements will help create a better customer experience for mobile and fixed wireless customers. 

What is 5G Standalone Technology? 
Initially, we deployed 5G technology leveraging our investments in the current LTE network (called non-standalone). It required a 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) to be paired with 4G RAN and utilized 4G core. 

5G SA Increases 5G Availability for our Customers in our Footprint 
5G SA does not depend on a 4G core to operate. Rather, it pairs 5G radios with a cloud-native 5G core network. Using a 5G core means that the entire wireless infrastructure, from device to radio access network to core, is built specifically for 5G use cases. This has positive impacts on reliability of networks, coverage and faster speeds with mid-band spectrum to help consumers stay connected to what matters most. 

How Can This Benefit UScellular Customers? 
A 5G SA core enhances network efficiency and reduces network cost and complexity – ultimately 
leading to a better customer experience. For example, 5G SA will allow slices, which can be designated for certain uses. Because a mobile customer and a Home Internet customer use the network differently, UScellular can take part of its 5G network and use it for mobility customers and another section for fixed wireless use cases, enhancing the experience for both. This allows for a wireless carrier to manage all its connections efficiently and effectively, with benefits that can be applied to factory automation, Internet of Things development, autonomous vehicle operation and more. 

What’s Next? 
In the near term, UScellular and the wireless industry is working to find the right balance for using 5G SA. This is a significant technology transition, and as with all transitions in technology, there are challenges to overcome and thorough testing is required. As we do with all new technology, we need to test it – and then test it again – to make sure it’s going to work for our customers. We will roll it out when we’re confident it will make the customer experience better. 


Michael Irizarry
Chief Technology Officer, Head of Engineering and Information Technology