Adam Hollingworth for NBN Co

Nokia, Telia claim successful outdoor trial in 6 GHz range with massive MIMO

Global comms tech provider teams with leading Nordic operator to complete field pilot in upper 6 GHz spectrum band range to add capacity and coverage to existing macro cell sites in dense urban environments for 5G-Advanced and 6G networks

For some time, leading global telcos have pinpointed the upper 6GHz spectrum band as key to ensuring a strong 5G mobile infrastructure to drive digital economies and set a path to add capacity for future networks, and in the latest step in this objective, Nokia and Telia have concluded a field pilot in the upper 6 GHz spectrum band range designed to add what is regarded as “crucial” capacity and coverage to existing macro cell sites in dense urban environments for next-generation 5G-Advanced and 6G networks.

Explaining the rationale for the test, Nokia said that with ever-increasing traffic growth and demand for mobile broadband, operators were looking for efficient ways to keep pace, and deliver capacity and coverage where it’s needed. It believes new 5G-Advanced and the expected 6G use cases will only add to this demand.

It added that, given the rate at which data traffic is increasing, most operators will need to increase their TDD mid-band spectrum holdings in the second half of the decade. The allocation of the upper 6 GHz spectrum for mobile services, which means a possible 200 MHz of mid-band TDD spectrum per operator, was agreed upon at the World Radio Conference 2023. It’s especially important in markets where the 7.2-8.4 GHz range will not be available.

“As our customers generate increasing amounts of mobile traffic, it is essential to have further access to mid-band TDD spectrum to enhance digitalisation in our markets and serve our customers appropriately,” said Telia Group chief technology officer Stefan Jäverbring.

“This field test … is an important step in demonstrating how this can be done sustainably, as it would be possible to use our existing site grid. In this way, deployment would be faster and have less environmental impact, creating fewer carbon emissions than the alternative of adding capacity by building more new sites.”

The trial used a 128TRX massive MIMO antenna based on Nokia’s AirScale Habrok radio aimed to show mobile operators a “seamless” network evolution path when 5G-Advanced and 6G networks become available, and a test terminal from MediaTek with integrated antennas.

The pilot examined whether the uplink coverage on the new, higher frequency is compatible with the existing inter-site distances. The companies tested the upper part of the band (n104) and used a 3.5 GHz massive MIMO cell of the same RF-bandwidth across various distances to replicate different real-world scenarios.

Read more about the upper 6GHz comms band

The field tests are said to have confirmed the macro grid-readiness of the upper 6 GHz spectrum used with massive MIMO. Moreover, Nokia said it also showed that massive capacity can be added in urban areas, where there is higher demand for TDD broadband, and high throughput can be achieved in suburban or rural areas. This, said the tech firm, offers operators an evolution path to 5G-Advanced and 6G in the future.

Commenting on what the likely implications of the tests could be for the mobile industry, Luciana Camargos, head of spectrum at global mobile trade association the GSMA, said: “The critical role which mobile networks play for society, enterprises and governments comes with increased demand for data traffic. Mobile operators need additional spectrum to serve growing connectivity needs, so commercialisation of the upper 6 GHz band will be an important tool in enabling the digital ambitions of each country.”

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