BT claims first 4-carrier aggregation on standalone 5G • The Register

BT has tested four carrier components (4CC) operating in a 5G standalone network and claims it is the first in Europe to demonstrate this in a live network. The technology will offer increased capacity and speed to end-user devices when it is eventually rolled out across the cellular network.

The British telecoms company, a former state monopoly, said its network team had successfully combined four low-band and mid-band radio channels (2.1, 2.6, 3.4 and 3.6 GHz) operating in the EE mobile network are operated BT was acquired in 2016.

According to BT, this development heralds “the next phase of 5G” on its EE mobile network, and the conglomerate said it will offer “superior experiences” for customers and enable new capabilities for businesses once fully deployed.

Most of today’s 5G networks – at least those in the UK – are non-standalone, meaning they operate on infrastructure designed for 4G networks rather than a core network with dedicated equipment and network functions to support 5G.

BT said the test of this technology was being carried out in two phases, with the first taking place at the telecoms company’s radio lab in Bristol. Testing then moved to BT’s Adastral Park in Suffolk, where the team successfully achieved 4CC running on a standalone 5G network operating within EE’s radio spectrum.

The company claims this is the first time in Europe that a network operator has achieved this using commercial frequencies, and also the first time that it has been achieved here outside of a laboratory.

BT had some help from Nokia, leveraging their 5G Radio Access Network technology and MediaTek’s M80 5G modem silicon.

Nokia and MediaTek announced Earlier this year, the pair had successfully performed the first 4CC carrier aggregation in sub-6GHz 5G networks, again using the M80 5G modem and Nokias AirScale 5G standalone architecture. So it seems they just needed a carrier partner to help them demonstrate how it worked in a live network situation outside of the lab.

PP Foresight telecoms industry analyst Paolo Pescatore told us that this is about migrating networks to better capacity and performance.

“Compared to previous generations, there seems to be a greater focus on improving the resilience of 5G networks from the start. This is significant as it will extend the lifecycle of the network – especially as the current spectrum is being redesigned for 5G,” he said, but added: “It’s great to try, but now is the time to do this cool stuff to implement in a real commercial and operational environment.”

We’ve asked BT when we can expect this to be fully implemented on the Live EE network, but unfortunately the telecoms giant only said: “This technology will be on parts of our network as we roll out 5G standalone services.”

We’ve also asked what kind of network speeds BT hopes to deliver with a full 5G standalone network, but again we’re just told, “We’re going to see an increase in both capacity and speed as a result of this technology.”

Nokia and MediaTek stated that their tests achieved almost 3Gbps downlink performance, but it should be reiterated that this was done under lab conditions. ® BT claims first 4-carrier aggregation on standalone 5G • The Register

Laura Coffey

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