Ericsson signs standalone 5G deal with Swisscom

by Bevin Fletcher | May 3, 2021 5:02pm

Ericsson on Monday inked an expanded 5G deal with Swisscom that includes transitioning the operator’s 5G network to standalone (SA) mode.

Swisscom plans to use Ericsson’s cloud-native dual-mode 5G core, with the inclusion of a container-based cloud packet core and cloud data management and policy.

The Swedish vendor’s 5G radio gear is also part of the deal, with Swisscom tapping 5G NR carrier aggregation and 5G RAN slicing technologies. Network slicing is one the features of moving to SA 5G that operators are looking toward as a potential way to drive revenues and new business models. It enables a portion, or “slice”, of the network to be isolated and resources dedicated to deliver on customer-specific needs like bandwidth or latency.

Just last month Ericsson helped Vodafone activate a standalone 5G network in Germany. And T-Mobile in the U.S. had one of the first nationwide SA 5G deployments, launched in August of last year.

The strategic partnership with Swisscom calls for increased automation, designs powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, cognitive software to help optimize the network, and cloud native infrastructure over the next three years. With these capabilities, Ericsson said customers can tap faster 5G speeds, reduced latencies and the aforementioned network slicing benefit.  

“Together, we have been first in Europe to turn on 5G commercially and have proven your technological leadership and our innovation capability,” stated Mark Düsener, head of Mobile & Mass Market Communication at Swisscom. “This new deal confirms our joint commitment to follow this path and to further accelerate the development of 5G technology."

Swisscom and Ericsson have been 5G partners since 2017 and in April 2019 launched Europe’s first commercial 5G network. By December 2019, the 5G non-standalone (NSA) network covered 90% of Switzerland’s population with help from dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) and reached 96% as of last month.    

As the partners start to move Swisscom’s network to SA 5G, where it no longer relies on 4G LTE as an anchor, one of their achievements was an SA 5G voice and data call over a commercial network in Bern. While 5G promises to handle data-intensive applications, more basic functions like native voice are still a key need when moving to a strictly 5G architecture.

The Voice over New Radio (VoNR) calls used smartphones from Oppo, including the Find X2 Pro and the Reno 4Z 5G. They also utilized Ericsson radio, core and IMS products IMS is necessary for both 4G LTE voice and standalone 5G) deployed on the Ericsson NFVI cloud infrastructure solution. 

This year CHIP network testing of Swisscom and other operator networks looked at both lower-band 5G with DSS and faster capabilities with new 3.6 GHz spectrum. Swisscom measured 60.4% 5G availability in the urban areas tested, compared to operator Sunrise at 45.3%. For measurements testing 3.6 GHz 5G, on average Swisscom delivered speeds of 293 Mbps, coming in second behind Sunrise (381 Mbps) and ahead of Salt (287 Mbps).

As new 5G services continue come online, Swisscom said farewell to its legacy 2G network, with a final shut off in mid-April. According to the operator, less than 0.03% of traffic was transmitted by 2G at the end of 2020.

In other Ericsson 5G news Monday, Iceland’s Síminn picked the Swedish vendor as its 5G RAN supplier, following successful trials. Síminn plans to eventually deploy mid-band 3.5-3.6 GHz spectrum for its 5G service, but is starting with legacy low-band to initially reach broader coverage. The operator is targeting nationwide 5G coverage y the end of 2022.