Explore Airtel Thanks App    X
  1. Home
  2. »
  3. Prepaid
  4. »
  5. What Is the Difference Between 5G Networking SA and NSA?

What Is the Difference Between 5G Networking SA and NSA?

According to a report by the Swedish Firm Ericsson, it is projected that 5G users in India will reach up to 690 million by the end of the year 2028. 690 million people account for 55% of the Indian population. After 5G’s launch in 2022, India is seeing rapid growth in the number of users switching to the 5G network. People are shifting to networks that are 5G-ready by using the mobile number portability process.

Buy Airtel Prepaid with exciting benefits!

Also read: How to Check & Enable 5G Support in Your Phone?

Given the network rollout is in its initial phase, there’s been a lot of confusion or questions about how the 5G network functions and how it is rolled out to the end users. Terms like 5G NSA and 5G SA are in common use by experts. While the jargon might sound intimidating, it is significant to understand how this advanced cellular technology is going to reach every corner of the country.

This article will break down these terms and give you a detailed understanding of what is 5G SA and NSA and how they are different from one another. Let’s get into it!

Every telecom operator has a choice when it comes to deploying 5G. They can either use NSA to distribute the network or choose SA. Usually, for the initial stages, NSA takes priority. In India, both Airtel and VI use NSA for initial deployment. This helps the telecom operator to easily distribute the 5G network on the existing infrastructure. Both SA and NSA are good ways of constructing and distributing a 5G network. However, each mode comes with its own pros and cons affecting the efficiency of the network.

What is 5G NSA?

NSA stands for Non-Standalone. The basic meaning of the 5G NSA mode is clued in the name – A network that can’t stand alone.  To put it in one sentence, NSA is a RAN (Radio Access Network) that operates with the help of the 4G LTE’s core called EPC (Evolved Packet Core). Let’s break this down.

EPC is basically the framework on which a 4G network runs. It helps in converging data and voice for a 4G LTE network. Earlier, 2G and 3G networks had to use separate domains and switch constantly for providing data and voice. Thanks to EPC (the new core network), both data and voice are converged on a single domain. This made the network more efficient.

Under an NSA mode for 5G, a dual connection is established. Here, the EPC (4G LTE’s core network) acts as the sole framework for both the 4G LTE and 5G NR (wireless technology). The 5G NR control plane is anchored to the 4G LTE and uses its core network EPC.

Since the control plane is anchored to the EPC, the 4G base station takes precedence. The NSA mode is feasible for the 5G network because it is dependent on the existing 4G infrastructure.

Pros and Cons of 5G NSA

While NSA has been used by many telecom companies across the world for the initial deployment of 5G, it comes with its own pros and cons. Let’s discuss this in detail.

Benefits of 5G NSA mode

  • It is cost-effective. Since the 5G network is anchored on the existing 4G network, there is no need to invest in the expensive 5G core.
  • It is quite easy to deploy a 5G NSA network because the telecoms are familiar with the infrastructure and its configuration process.
  • Thanks to existing 4G infrastructure and the familiarization with the same, the process of rolling out the 5G network is extremely fast.


  • NSA can’t deliver low latency, one of the biggest attractions for a 5G network.
  • More power consumption due to the usage of two forms of the cellular network.
  • NSA 5G can’t deliver the pure and best form of 5G in the initial stage.

Even with its drawbacks, NSA mode 5G is perfect for the initial rollout of 5G services in any region.

Let’s move on to Standalone 5G.


What is SA or Standalone 5G?

As the name suggests, standalone 5G doesn’t require a 4G core or infrastructure to deliver. The telecom companies launching 5G in the SA mode have to build completely new infrastructure and learn fast how to manage it.

An SA 5G uses 5G RAN and 5G core to perform essential 5G functions like decreasing latency, bettering network performance, and controlling network management-related functions. The 5G NR control plane is anchored to the 5G core.

Benefits of 5G SA mode

  • Power consumption is lesser than NSA 5G.
  • Offers multiple 5G use cases.
  • Lowers latency.
  • Increases bandwidth caps
  • Gives powerful, fast, and scalable networks


  • Costly to implement at all stages.
  • Time-consuming for experts to learn the new core infrastructure.
  • Difficult to roll out 5G in every corner of the region due to limited SA infrastructure and devices which support the SA technology.

SA and NA in 5G – one can’t really say which is better than the other. It depends on the region 5G is being launched in, the telecom partner, roll-out deadlines, cost, and more.

Now that you are clear with the technical jargon involved, let’s see how SA differs from NA.

NSA VS SA – Differences

Basically, the biggest difference between NSA and SA is how each mode provides the 5G network. These methods of 5G deployment decide if the network can deliver all 3GPP-defined NR specifications. These specifications are as follows:

  • Better mobile broadband – increased data rates and improved network speed.
  • Reliable and low-latency communication (below 5 milliseconds).
  • Connecting up to 1 million devices and facilitating seamless communication among them.

An NSA based 5G network can only support the mobile broadband specification. Whereas the SA mode can support and fulfill all three specifications defined by 3GPP.

Table of differences between SA and NSA in 5G

Let’s look at the differences between NSA and SA in a tabular form.

Basis of difference NSA 5G SA 5G
Core network The core network here is 4G EPC (Evolved Packet Core). The core network here is 5G Core.
Dependency on 4G LTE Highly dependent No dependency
Primary base station 4G base station takes precedence 5G NR base station takes singular precedence
Power Consumption High power consumption Comparatively less power consumption
Latency Can’t deliver low latency Can deliver low latency
Bandwidth Can’t connect to 1 million devices Can connect to 1 million devices and run smoothly
Interoperability 5G and 4G networks are interoperable and can exchange data 5G networks are independent of 4G networks
Form of 5G Initial and basic 5G network delivered The final and pure form of the 5G network is delivered
Ease of deployment Very high Difficult – involves training and familiarization
Time Consumption Low (since it’s deployed on the existing 4G infrastructure) High (since new architecture has to be launched and professionals need to be trained)
Suitable Only for initial stages of 5G network launch Suitable for more established stages of 5G network launch

We hope now you have a clear understanding of 5G SA and NSA modes. Currently, Airtel 5G Plus is using the NSA mode to easily deploy the 5G network in all corners of the country without consuming a lot of time. The main objective here remains 5G accessibility to everyone.

Also read: Do You Need a New Airtel SIM Card for 5G Connection?

If you are in a 5G-ready city with a 5G-ready mobile phone and software, you can enjoy ultrafast 5G speed on your existing 4G sim card without any new 5G recharge. Note that your 4G sim is already 5G ready.

Also read: What are Common Facts and Myths about 5G Network?