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Nokia and O2 Telefónica Germany claim 5G carrier aggregation breakthrough

Comms tech provider and leading German operator claim industry-first milestone achieved on live 5G network with Nokia’s commercial 5G AirScale portfolio and MediaTek’s mobile platform

The conversation regarding 5G is subtly changing with the increased criticality of fast uplink speeds to support applications running over next-generation networks, and in the latest example of this, Nokia and O2 Telefónica Germany have announced that they have successfully aggregated sub-6GHz spectrum frequencies in what they call an industry-first two-component carrier uplink carrier aggregation (CA) trial on a 5G Standalone network.

CA enables mobile operators to maximise their spectrum assets to reach higher throughputs and enhance the 5G experience for subscribers. As users create and share content online such as high-definition video, carrier aggregation is seen as a technology that can improve the performance of 5G by delivering improved uplink network usability at the cell edge with higher reliability and lower latency.

Nokia believes mobile operators will be able to enable new industrial use cases for verticals such as the automotive industry and live broadcasts of events and virtual reality experiences for consumers and enterprises, paving the way for the metaverse.

Nokia has previously demonstrated four component carrier downlink 5G carrier aggregation, as well as uplink carrier aggregation on millimetre wave spectrum. Together with O2 Telefónica Germany, it says it the first to combine sub-6GHz spectrum to boost uplink throughput.

The proof-of-concept took place at O2 Telefónica’s Innovation Cluster near Berlin and utilised O2 Telefónica’s live commercial network. Nokia provided solutions from its latest energy-efficient AirScale portfolio, including baseband, massive MIMO and RRH products, powered by its Reefshark chipset.

MediaTek provided its 5G mobile platform using the MediaTek Release-16 M80 modem integrated into the MediaTek Dimensity 9000 flagship chipset. The companies used the combination of a 20MHz carrier on the 1,800MHz band (n3) and a 70MHz carrier on the 3.6GHz band (n78) using carrier aggregation technology to achieve a peak throughput of 144Mbps.

Cells on a lower frequency in Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) mode provide wide coverage. They are complemented by cells on higher frequencies typically in Time Division Duplex (TDD), which feature higher bandwidth and capacity, but lower coverage range. Uplink carrier aggregation of FDD and TDD combines frequencies to provide higher data rates and increased coverage, especially at the TDD cell edge and indoors. This combination can greatly reduce the cost of network construction while improving network coverage and the user experience as well as helping ensure low latency.

“We want to offer our customers an optimal 5G experience in their everyday digital lives. We are continuously working on technological innovations that will make our O2 network of the future more powerful,” commented O2 Telefónica chief technology and information officer Mallik Rao.

“With frequency bundling, we will enable our customers to enjoy faster downloads and uploads in our 5G network in the future. Together with our long-time partner Nokia, we have succeeded in taking this step also for uploads in the 5G standalone network. Carrier aggregation will take our 5G network to the next level and improve the network experience,” added Rao.

Mark Atkinson, senior vice-president of radio access networks at Nokia, said: “While many 5G services require high downlink data rates, increasing sub-6GHz uplink speeds is an important precondition for advanced 5G use cases. Carrier aggregation software complements our high-performance AirScale portfolio, placing Nokia at the forefront of providing technologies that support mobile operators in maximising radio network efficiencies.”

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