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Nos talks up move to 5G standalone

Portugal’s Nos has declared that it is ready to provide services on a new 5G standalone infrastructure.

Mary Lennighan

November 28, 2023

3 Min Read
5G tower

The operator made the announcement on the second anniversary of its launch of 5G services in Portugal, a business it claims is going pretty well, incidentally. While it was keen to talk up the potential of 5G SA, citing the usual suspects like applications requiring ultra-low latency, network slicing, and so forth, it’s not wholly clear whether the new SA core is actually operational or simply ready to go.

Nonetheless, the announcement is worth noting because it demonstrates that the industry is actually making some progress in 5G SA, albeit perhaps more slowly than many expected.

Indeed, just last week Dell’Oro shared its latest figures on the global mobile core market which showed that the third quarter of the year recorded the sector’s slowest rate of growth for almost six years. Naturally, a difficult macroeconomic climate, the rising cost of capital, and the like took their toll on the market, but so did a lack of growth in the 5G SA space.

The analyst firm put the number of 5G SA network launches to seven in 2023 to date, down from 17 in 2022.

Nos potentially adds another one to that figure – if its 5G core is actually up and running – but the market is not exactly booming. Nonetheless, every little helps.

Nos worked with Nokia to install its 5G data core and signalling, while Ericsson was responsible for the voice element, it said. It carried out its first data session over the network on 7 September.

Now it is looking ahead to what 5G SA will enable. Like its peers elsewhere in the world, Nos is talking about the development of services that can benefit from the ultra-low latency afforded by 5G SA, the opportunities for guaranteed quality of service thanks to network slicing, private networks, and the ability to support new IoT applications. It highlighted mission-critical areas such as autonomous driving and remote control of machinery, as well as augmented and virtual reality applications and improved quality of experience with gaming.

The telco reminds us that 5G SA has been available at its development hub since May 2022, which presumably means it expects there to be new applications and services being made ready.

“With the new developments, we now enter a new phase, which aims to make this technology fully available,” the operator said, without providing further details.

It was happy to crow about its 5G prowess though, noting that it has spent €420 million to date on 5G networks and plans to add another €110 million in the coming years. It claims to have the best 5G coverage in Portugal with 4,200-plus base stations providing the technology to 93% of the population.

As it stands, one in four of its customers has a 5G device and the vast majority, or 84%, are regular 5G users. “These are numbers that are expected to grow very quickly,” the firm predicted, given that as it stands 76% of the smartphones it sells are 5G devices. It added that it has 5G IoT deals with more than 500 companies in areas such as healthcare and retail.

All in all, this announcement was mainly timed to mark two years of 5G for Nos and served as a chance for the telco to talk about that. But it is also clearly making plenty of headway with 5G SA, and that’s good not only for Nos itself, but also for the broader industry.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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