5G mmWave: NSA or SA?

5G mmWave FR2 Bands

According to Chip vendor Qualcomm, all 5G mmWave deployments in the world are currently (March 2021) using 5G non-standalone (NSA) configuration.

What are 5G NSA networks?

5G mmWave using NSA configurations will combine 5G FR2 (Frequency Range 2) with 4G “bearer” operating in traditional lower frequency bands (FR1) which are sub-6GHz

5G mmWave FR2 Bands as used in NSA configuration

Why did operators choose NSA configuration?

Quite simply, because it was an easy upgrade from existing 4G networks. A relatively simple upgrade to the 4G core network, and additional 5G mmWave radios on existing 4G sites

Why will this change?

Many new operators don’t have 4G “anchor band” radio networks. Some of these operators are ISPs and data-centric operators who don’t own 4G spectrum, or operate a 4G network today. They only have the mmWave spectrum to utilise.
Also, an SA network has lower latency and other advantages that an NSA network cannot deliver in the future.

Non-standalone (NSA) 5G:

  • Be first to launch 5G and gain technology and market leadership
  • Introduce new 5G spectrums to boost capacity and increase delivery efficiency
  • Maximizes the use of the installed LTE base
  • LTE anchor required for control plane communication and mobility management
  • 5G Evolved Packet Core
  • Provides early adopter with 5G-enabled devices
  • Enables video streaming, AR/VR, an immersive media experience
  • Opens up opportunities for new use cases such as Critical IoT

Standalone (SA) 5G:

  • Target 5G architecture optionĀ 
  • Simplified RAN and device architecture
  • New cloud-native 5G Core
  • Brings ultra-low latency
  • The only option to provide same 5G coverage for low band as legacy system
  • Supports advanced network-slicing functions
  • Facilitates a wider range of use cases for new devices


We can be sure that 5G-SA in mmWave is coming soon, dictated by chipset availability and implementation by equipment vendors and larger operators.

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