Rogers officially turned on its standalone 5G network for its subscribers today, but customers looking to try it out will need a certified phone.
Unlike non-standalone 5G that pairs 5G radios with the 4G core, standalone 5G provides new management technologies such as network slicing, and a cloud-native architecture that reduces operational inefficiencies.
“The first thing you’ll see right away when you connect to the standalone [5G] network is a boost in coverage on 5G,” said Luciano Ramos, senior vice-president of core engineering at Rogers. “The technology behind standalone allows us to expand that 5G coverage and use our bands more effectively. You’ll also see…a 20 to 30 per cent reduction in latency right away when you’re in a standalone network versus a traditional non-standalone network.”
“Throughput will depend a little bit more around how we deploy our bands, how we want to use a spectrum and how we manage that spectrum allocation versus users…we put spectrum where consumption is and because this is a wireless network, our consumption moves around,” he went on. “So we try to follow where demand and standalone allows us to better use our spectrum.”
Both commercial customers and consumers will benefit from 5G. In commercial settings, 5G can accelerate the adoption of IoT sensors in smart factories, improve traffic management in transit systems, and provide critical data access for first responders. And aside from the direct benefits the lower latency and higher throughput bring to gaming and streaming, 5G can also help to increase the adoption of VR/AR and paves the way to develop new consumer use cases.
But the new network won’t be available to all Rogers subscribers, at least not immediately. While the signal is available to all of its customers, only the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are currently certified to work with Rogers’ standalone 5G. Devices from other manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung are in line to pass the certification tests.
Rogers says that because there’s only a handful of wireless modem chipmakers available, it’s only a matter of time before they’re all certified for the network.
“My expectation is that if it’s a 5G standalone device, it will be able to connect to a network with no problem,” Ramos explained.
Rogers began deploying its 5G core network in December 2020 and completed its rollout in October 2021. In parallel to its 5G core launch, Rogers also announced that it achieved its first 5G standalone device certifications in Canada using Google’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
The company spent C$3.3 billion to acquire 3,500 MHz wireless licenses in the mid-band 5G auction last year. Initially, its 5G services will not be running on the newly-purchased spectrum. Rogers says that due to regulatory restrictions, carriers can only start using the spectrum towards the middle of the year, to give other services time to move off of that band.
“We want to make a big splash on how we’re going to launch 3,500 MHz [5G service] and you will be able to access next-generation services on the network once we launch it. The day one that we are allowed to turn it on, we will turn it on,” Ramos said.
Rogers’ 5G network is now available for its Infinite subscribers who have a Google Pixel 6 or a Pixel 6 Pro at no extra charge. More devices will be included as they become certified and ready for onboarding.