August 8, 2022
Boffins at BT Networks, working in partnership with Nokia, have claimed a European first. Using "regular spectrum" they have apparently managed to demo aggregation of four carrier components (4CC) over a 5G Standalone (SA) "live" network (which EE expects to launch commercially next year). EE is BT's wholly owned mobile network operator in the UK.
Greg McCall, BT's managing director of service platforms, described 4CC over 5G SA as a technology breakthrough, and one that is "vital to giving our customers the best experience."
Working in collaboration with Nokia, BT Networks combined 2.1GHz, 2.6GHz, 3.4GHz and 3.6GHz channels using the Finnish supplier's 5G RAN tech.
Figure 1: The two companies claim their demo, using 'live' commercial spectrum, is a European first.
The trial's first stage took place in BT's Radio Lab in Bristol, while the second stage saw the nascent tech perform in an outdoor environment using a radio mast at Adastral Park in Ipswich, England, where BT's main R&D facilities are located.
Not only is it the first time in Europe that a network operator has achieved 4CC on 5G SA using commercial spectrum, claimed BT, but also the first time it has been achieved outside of a lab (at least in Europe).
Light Reading asked BT what downlink and uplink speeds were achieved in the demo, and when the 4CC tech might become commercially available, but did not receive a reply at the time of writing.
Breaking 5G speed barriers
BT's 4CC collaboration with Nokia follows quickly on the heels of a seven-carrier aggregation lab demo, using the non-standalone variant of 5G, by EE and Qualcomm. Five spectrum carriers typically used for EE's LTE network – 1.8GHz (2 carriers), 2.1GHz (1 carrier) and 2.6GHz (2 carriers) – were combined with two 5G New Radio carriers (3.4GHz and 3.6GHz).
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EE said the seven-carrier aggregation "breakthrough" delivered download 5G speeds of up to 2.2Gbit/s (in the lab), with "expected real-world speeds" of over 1.7Gbit/s.
EE can already claim speed bragging rights in the UK. A survey by RootMetrics, looking at the network performance of each UK MNO over the first six months of 2022, found that EE's UK-wide median download speeds were 66.2Mbit/s.
Second placed Three was some way behind (29.9Mbit/s), followed by Vodafone (23.8Mbit/s) and Virgin Media O2 (16.4Mbit/s).
— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
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