Rogers today announced that it has begun deploying its 5G core network, powered by Ericsson, in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver to support future 5G technologies as they become available. The move is another step towards establishing reliable 5G in Canada.

“Considered the brain of the network, our 5G standalone core propels us forward on our path to bring the full potential of 5G to Canadians,” said Jorge Fernandes, Rogers chief technology and information officer. “As the first carrier to introduce wireless services to Canadians 35 years ago, and the first and largest 5G network in the country, we are pleased to once again be first to help advance telecommunications innovation in Canada. From ultra-low latency to advanced services like network slicing, standalone 5G will support applications and technologies that will have a profound impact on our economy and society.”

5G is slated to bring much higher cellular speeds to consumers and support massive IoT. Additionally, it can enable new technologies in the automotive, smart city, and VR and AR applications.

Rogers also announced today it has expanded its 5G network to 26 new cities and towns in Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec, and now reaches 160 communities across the country.

Why 5G core is a big deal

While Canadians today can already enjoy improved speeds on current 5G networks, it has yet to realize its true potential.

The 5G architecture is largely divided into two segments: The 5G radio access network (RAN) that facilitates communication between the end-user devices and the cell sites, and the 5G core, the portion of the network that delivers data between the antenna base stations and the servers. Current 5G services in Canada only implements the 5G RAN (5G New Radio) and still rely on a 4G core. This architecture is known as non-standalone (NSA) 5G.

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Everything you need to know about 5G 

Difference between NSA, SA, and dual-mode 5G architectures. Source: Ericsson

Although NSA 5G allows carriers to reach the market quicker and immediately upgrade data speeds to their subscribers, it’s an intermittent step to true 5G. The 5G radio’s base stations are still connected to a 4G backend, which needs an LTE anchor to establish a connection. This prevents other benefits of 5G–like low latency and robust traffic management–from being implemented.

Once a network uses both the 5G NR and core, it becomes standalone (SA) 5G, the optimal setup operators aim for. SA 5G enables a plethora of new features, including a simplified network stack that reduces latency, better traffic management capabilities, and a cloud-native architecture that addresses many operational inefficiencies.

Another key feature of standalone 5G is network slicing, a software-defined networking technology that portions the network’s resources to different use cases. For example, an operator may choose to dedicate a slice to telemedicine, an industry that prioritizes reliability and low latency. The slices can also be adjusted dynamically as demands change.

But 5G won’t replace 4G anytime soon. Thus, operators and equipment manufacturers will support dual-mode 5G core, in which the 5G network equipment can also support 4G LTE traffic. Rogers, along with all major carriers in Canada, will support this architecture.

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