Optus unveils first Australian demo of 5G NR-DC

Australian operator and global comms tech firms demonstrate new radio dual connectivity technology in Sydney, boosting 5G coverage area while maintaining superfast 5G speeds

Australian telco Optus has teamed with comms tech providers MediaTek and Ericsson to jointly complete a country-first demonstration with the use of new radio dual connectivity (NR-DC) technology.

The mmWave spectrum band has gained importance this year. 5G mmWave uses spectrum resources in frequencies above 24GHz to complement sub-6GHz roll-outs and offer the full potential of 5G, allowing operators to add massive capacity to cellular networks with multi-gigabit wireless speeds and low-latency connectivity.

Earlier in the year, the GSMA, the trade body for global mobile operators, observed that one of the key issues for 5G in 2021 was where and when millimetre wave (mmWave) systems can be cost-effective. Now many mobile communications companies have announced collective support for 5G mmWave technology globally.

In July 2021, Ericsson and MediaTek announced what they claimed was a new speed benchmark for mmWave uplink. The firms said they had successfully deployed carrier aggregation technology to achieve a throughput of nearly 500Mbps, double the existing upload speeds and the fastest recorded to date.

Using the Taiwanese fabless semiconductor company’s M80 test platform and comms tech giant Ericsson’s RAN Compute (basebands) and 5G radios, the demonstration is said to highlight the benefits of utilising both spectrum bands simultaneously, with average and peak 5G speeds expected to increase significantly, as well as the ability to extend coverage over mmWave 5G networks over a greater distance.

Optus plans to roll out this new capability across its 5G network later this year as commercial mmWave devices begin to hit the market.

The demonstration in Sydney showcased the use of NR-DC technology to aggregate its mid-band 3,500MHz spectrum assets with its newly acquired mmWave 26GHz spectrum to boost the 5G coverage area while maintaining superfast 5G speeds.

“It is important to us that we look at innovative ways to amplify our 5G technology assets so that our customers receive the best and fastest 5G network possible,” said Lambo Kanagaratnam, managing director networks at Optus. “The demonstration of NR dual connectivity aggregation is another significant technology milestone that will help us meet this goal. We are always looking for ways to connect customers to technology that improves their lives and the use of 5G NR-DC will achieve exactly that, offering our 5G customers increased coverage and speed when connected to the network.”

Martin Wiktorin, Ericsson’s head of global customer unit Singtel, added: “The greater speeds and capacity enabled by NR-DC technology – when combined with the ultra-low latency of 5G – will allow innovative service providers like Optus to meet increasing network demands from consumers. This demonstration paves the way for the next generation of 5G use cases for consumers, including gaming and immersive media.”

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