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STC Kuwait and BICS complete world’s first live 5G standalone roaming connection

Mobile connectivity enabler teams with MENA region telecoms provider for successful test of what is claimed to be the first of its kind to be completed in a non-lab environment and a major milestone for global 5G adoption

In what is claimed to be a world-first breakthrough, international connectivity and 5G enabler BICS has successfully set up what it says is the first-ever intercontinental 5G standalone (SA) roaming connection completed in a non-lab environment between two live networks in Europe and the Middle East.

The connection demonstrated successful roaming between Belgian mobile operator Proximus’s 5G SA network and Middle East-based digital solutions and telecoms provider STC Kuwait’s 5G SA network. In 2021, STC was the first operator in its country to launch 5G SA technology and with this latest demonstration, the firms say they have reached a landmark moment for the readiness of international 5G SA services and use cases.

Connectivity between the visited and home network was set up via secured gateways – a next-level security protocol mandated by roaming regulator GSMA, and which can be hosted on BICS’s IPX network – for faster and more efficient implementation and management.

This is the latest development in 5G adoption for Proximus-owned BICS, which in 2021 claimed the first successful 5G lab trial, as well as borderless 5G connectivity to its internet-of-things (IoT) SIM card system. The company said that as mobile network operators face the challenge of complex 5G roaming agreements and technologies, there is demand for simplifying their path to 5G connectivity, allowing them to benefit from one connection, one invoice and full managed service modules to reduce overheads.

“Until now, operators around the world have only been delivering 5G non-standalone roaming that routes traffic through 4G/LTE cores,” said Mikaël Schachne, vice-president telco market at BICS. “This is the first time anyone has ever carried out a successful live connection across borders using 5G standalone. By establishing 5G SA roaming, we have broken down the barriers to bring the power of this technology to international communications. This is an important step for the industry and accelerates the benefits of 5G to potential consumers and enterprises around the world.”

STC believes the partnership will bring its customers “exceptional” connectivity at high data speeds and offer them the same 4G and 5G data plans at no additional cost when abroad. “To have been a part of this breakthrough moment for 5G is something we are very proud of,” said Fahad Al Ali, chief technology officer at STC Kuwait.

“STC’s mission has long been to enable digital transformation, and in establishing this first-ever 5G standalone roaming connection, we are leading the way – not just for Kuwait, but for the world. STC believes standalone 5G will bring untold benefits that will enrich the lifestyles of both individual and corporate customers by accelerating innovation across borders through pioneering roaming solutions.” 

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