5G finds voice as Nokia, Optus claim first 3CC carrier aggregation standalone 5G data

Voice-over-5G market shows strong growth as tech provider and Australian operator establish 3 components carrier data sessions using a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra smartphone and Nokia’s 5G AirScale portfolio on Optus’ 5G network

The acceleration of 5G roll-outs after a slowdown during the pandemic has led to strong increases in not just data applications over the next-generation infrastructures. A study by Juniper Research has found that the number of voice-over-5G users will reach 2.5 billion globally by 2026, while Nokia, Optus and Samsung Electronics Australia have achieved what the firms regard as a milestone in data session.

As an indication of the potential growth shown in the study Mobile voice strategies: future monetisation opportunities & market forecasts 2022-2026, the 2026 total compares with just 290 million projected for 2022 and this rise of 780% will, said the analyst, be driven by voice-over-5G taking advantage of the software-based nature of 5G networks to offer application programming interfaces (APIs) for business voice services over operator networks.

The research urges operators to capitalise on the growth of voice-over-5G users to create a new portfolio of voice services. It recommends that operators prioritise interactive calling, intelligent call routing, and integration of artificial intelligence (AI)-based IVR (G Data) because these provide the most immediate return on investment in voice-over-5G.

In particular, the report identifies interactive calling as a key opportunity for operators who have launched 5G to provide more valuable voice services and compete with over-the-top voice apps. Juniper said interactive calling leverages 5G networks to offer advanced voice calling functionality, including interactive content and screensharing, directly in the native calling app on smartphones, thus negating the need for third-party applications.

It also stressed that current 4G voice technology, VoLTE (voice-over-LTE) was not sufficient to support interactive calling. Although there are currently more than 4.4 billion VoLTE users, representing over 50% of subscribers, the lower speed of 4G networks in comparison to 5G networks has so far restricted the use of interactive features or AI in operators’ voice services.

Despite the growth of voice-over-5G, the report forecasts that operator-billed voice revenue will decline by 16% over the next four years, as P2P voice traffic migrates to third-party voice apps. The analyst also urged operators to capitalise on the growth of 5G to develop new business-oriented voice services, such as interactive calling. 5G-based voice services must emulate operators’ current business messaging solutions by levying the cost on enterprises, rather than monetising mobile subscriber usage.

Meanwhile, in the realm of 5G data, Nokia, Optus and Samsung Electronics Australia have announced that they have achieved a data session using 3 components (3CC) carrier aggregation (CA) technology over a 5G standalone (SA) network in Australia – the first time this has been done using a commercial smartphone.

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Once commercially deployed, the system will see use in enhancing the experience of Optus customers with superior speeds and performance and will pave the way for advanced 5G use cases such as artificial and virtual reality (AR and VR). Nokia said it has prioritised the development of 5G CA technology across sub-6GHz 5G spectrum.

The partners said 5G carrier aggregation will allow compatible 5G smartphones to receive multiple 5G frequency bands in parallel, enabling higher data rates, increased coverage and superior network capacity while maximising the spectral efficiency of 5G networks. By combining spectrum from different frequency bands, providers can make optimal use of their 5G spectrum, enhancing coverage and network capacity, providing higher data rates, increased coverage and superior indoor performance.

Nokia used its latest commercial AirScale Baseband and radio portfolio powered by its Reefshark chipset over the Optus commercial network. The trial combined the FDD band (2100MHz) with the TDD band (2300MHz + 3500MHz) using CA technology.

“We are always looking at ways that we can further optimise our network performance to benefit our customers,” said Lambo Kanagaratnam, vice-president of networks at Optus. “Once available commercially, this 3 NR carrier operation will enable customers to achieve a higher 5G download speed at more places, improving their overall 5G experience. Our Samsung Galaxy S22 customers will soon be the first to benefit from this technology enhancement, with other handsets to follow shortly after.”

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