Difference Between Standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) 5G Modems


Huawei announced its latest flagship chipsets - HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G and the Kirin 990 at IFA 2019. This might not be the first 5G chipset from the company. However, it is the world's first standalone (SA) 5G chipset. As of now, companies like Samsung and Qualcomm have also launched their 5G chipsets which are non-standalone (NSA) 5G processors. Here are the major differences between the two:

Difference Between Standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) 5G Modems


Qualcomm and Samsung's NSA Modems

As of now, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and the Snapdragon 855 Plus supports 5G modems (Snapdragon X50 and X55). As mentioned previously, these are NSA 5G models. The processors in itself come with a 4G LTE modem, whereas the 5G modem has to be paired with it externally.

Similarly, Samsung's Exynos 9825 also supports 5G network via NSA model using the Exynos 5100 5G modem. Phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G are currently using NSA 5G modems.

Huawei's SA Modem

As of now, the HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G is the only mobile processor that comes with a built-in 5G modem. Having a built-in 5G model will consume less power compared to the NSA model. Besides, Qualcomm has now confirmed that the upcoming Snapdragon 7 series 5G chipset will have a built-in 5G modem, making it the first 5G SA chipset from the company.

The upcoming Huawei Mate 30 Pro is expected to be the first smartphone in the world to feature the Kirin 990 5G chipset.

Our Opinion On The 5G Modems

The transition from 4G to 5G is happening at a rapid pace. We might be able to see mid-tier smartphones with true 5G network support by the Q2 of 2019. However, the first batch of affordable smartphones might not launch in India, as establishing the 5G infrastructure will take time.

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