EE, Qualcomm collaboration claims European 5G first

UK operator says use of spectrum aggregation technology across 4G and 5G bands to boost network capacity has seen it become the first European network to deliver 5G over seven combined spectrum carriers, achieving the network’s fastest 5G speeds to date

As operators struggle to gain a differentiator in the communications market, especially in the 5G arena, EE says it has stolen a march on its rivals by becoming the first European network to successfully aggregate a 5G signal using seven different spectrum carriers, including its existing 3.4GHz and new 3.6GHz 5G channels.

In 2021, EE set out on its ambition to deliver 5G connectivity anywhere in the UK by 2028, through a combination of permanent coverage and on-demand systems.

By collaborating with Qualcomm Technologies at the Borehamwood lab owned by the mobile operator’s EE parent BT, the EE network is now said to be able to deliver a 5G signal using seven radio carriers, including some spectrum that EE acquired in a spectrum auction in April 2021 organised by UK regulator Ofcom.

After this, the second, assignment stage of the auction of 5G spectrum, EE claimed that its new frequency holdings set it up to provide customers with the best and most extensive 5G network in the UK. Overall, EE, won 80MHz overall of the 700MHz and 3.6GHz bands that were on offer and also negotiated the ability to make a future spectrum trade, to obtain full contiguity for the holdings.

The collaboration between EE and Qualcomm combined five 4G (LTE) carriers and two 5G (New Radio), said to be the first time any European network has achieved this feat. A mobile test device featuring the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform with Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF System was used to achieve the benchmark.

EE believes this “breakthrough” will deliver new benefits for customers, with 5G data speeds topping 2.2Gbps in lab testing and expected real-world speeds of over 1.7Gbps on the network. It said its innovation means a major boost in 5G network capacity, using a total of 170MHz of bandwidth, and could deliver the fastest available 5G in some parts of the UK.

“Our commitment to technology investment and innovation, coupled with our leading 5G footprint, continues to see the EE network offer and sustain the best overall 5G experience in the UK,” said EE director of mobile David Salam. “By pooling our research expertise with Qualcomm Technologies, we have been able to further enhance the EE network and will start to deliver some of Europe’s fastest 5G speeds in our major cities.”

Vikrant Jain, director, business development at Qualcomm Technologies International, added: “We are proud to have worked with EE to achieve such a notable milestone in the evolution of 5G technology. Aggregating seven (5LTE +2NR) different spectrum bands for 5G is a significant achievement and will provide enhanced customer experience. Qualcomm Technologies would like to congratulate EE as it remains at the forefront of 5G technology innovation.”

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