Industry Insights

September 11, 2023

Why use a 5G Test SIM instead of a 4G Test SIM?

5G is the next evolution of mobile networks. It includes performance improvements, but also a lot of new functions. To what extent the functional aspects are really supported by a particular 5G network depends on the used network deployment architecture.


From 5G NSA to 5G SA – or: from a limited 5G to a fully-fledged 5G network

For a smooth transition from 4G to 5G, the industry defined different deployment architectures. Put simply, there are:

  1. 5G NSA architecture, where NSA means “Non Stand Alone”. Here, 5G is limited to the new radio interface (“NR”), which boosts performance. It is deployed on top of an existing 4G network and uses the given 4G signaling infrastructure. Therefore, its deployment is not so costly, but does not support all new functional improvements.
  2. 5G SA architecture, where SA means “Stand Alone”. Here, the 5G New Radio is combined with the needed 5G signaling architecture, which also enables all functional improvements of 5G.

In the initial phases of 5G network deployments, we mainly saw 5G NSA networks. But this is changing significantly now. The “5G-Standalone July 2023 Summary” report of the Global Mobile Supplier Association states that 115 MNOs are already investing in 5G SA networks, compared with only 61 at the start of 2020.
This report also shows a massive growth in mobile devices supporting 5G SA networks. This is also backed by the latest “Mobile Device Trends Report“ (February 2023) of the Global Certification Forum, which states: ”The rise of 5G continues, with 33% of all devices and 49% of all smartphones in 2022 integrating the technology, and support for 5G standalone (SA) operation reaching over 90% of 5G devices.”

Hence, it becomes more and more important to be prepared for all 5G features when testing mobile devices and networks.

Feature improvements coming with 5G

Many 5G feature improvements are related to configurations in the SIM card. A recent report of the Trusted Connectivity Alliance “Trusted Connectivity Alliance Recommended 5G SIM for 3GPP Release 17” (December 2022) provides a great summary of such features. Some examples are:

  • Network slicing
  • Multi-device and multi-identity support
  • V2X communication (“Vehicle to X”)
  • Enhanced subscriber privacy: SUPI / SUCI support for Network Access Identifier, in addition to the IMSI
  • Enhanced private network support
  • Improvements in roaming services
  • Facilitation of non-3GPP network access

Why use a 5G Test SIM?

This means that whenever a test scenario is related to one of these 5G features, a 5G Test SIM must be used. 5G Test SIMs are used to fully test the functions of a 5G SA mobile device and the correct interaction with a test network or a network simulator. They are indispensable for functional tests, network tests, feature tests, security, interoperability and conformance tests. COMPRION provides such a 5G Test SIM.


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