Dish Network’s Boost Mobile unit has laid claim to becoming the first operator to commercially implement carrier aggregation (CA) on its 5G network.

Carrier aggregation has been around for years – T-Mobile began rolling it out on its 5G standalone (SA) network last July. Dish’s claim to a world first refers specifically to four component carrier (4CC) downlink and 2CC uplink CA on a live 5G network.

Dish has been trying out the technology since last year. In October, it claimed to have reached a peak uplink speed of 200 Mbps using 35 MHz of spectrum, and a downlink speed that topped out at 1.3 Gbps using a further 75 MHz. The demo was carried out on a test handset using a combination of its 600-MHz, 1.7-GHz, and 2.1-GHz spectrum.

“As the first network operator to commercially launch simultaneous 2x uplink and 4x downlink carrier aggregation, Boost continues to push the boundaries of network technology,” declared Eben Albertyn, EVP and CTO of Boost. “We pride ourselves in supporting our Boost subscribers with the most advanced wireless technology available, offering an enhanced customer experience with increased speeds.”

For the commercial service, Dish said it has combined 100 MHz of spectrum across four channels – that would appear to be slightly less than what was used during testing. Couple that with the idiosyncrasies of real-world usage, and the likelihood is customers probably won’t experience those aforementioned speeds.

Nevertheless, its launch should provide a noticeable and welcome boost to customers’ throughput.

Provided they have a compatible device. The device in question being a Samsung Galaxy S24. It’s a popular handset – and more 4CC/2CC-compatible handsets are on their way – so there will likely be many more users on the cusp of experiencing enhanced connectivity.

As long as they live in the right part of the country. Such are the vagaries of spectrum allocation and the economics of network deployment, that new frequencies tend to be put into use incrementally, rather than all at once.

To recap then, customers that buy or already own a Samsung Galaxy S24, and who live in an area where Dish has rolled out all four of the required frequency bands, will be able to get faster mobile speeds, but probably not as fast as those achieved in last year’s demo.

Joking aside, Dish stealing a march – albeit a very niche march if that’s possible – on its entrenched US rivals is worthy of recognition, and highlights the advantages of a greenfield network deployment.

It is all the more significant considering Dish’s somewhat precarious financial position too.

With around $2 billion of debt maturing in November, Dish is under pressure to find more money. Sources cited by Bloomberg earlier this month claimed Dish is in talks with some of its bondholders regarding fresh sources of financing.

Dish has staked its future on being able to transition from a legacy satellite TV provider to a modern, cloud-native mobile operator. Achieving network milestones like 4CC/2CC carrier aggregation send the message that this strategy is still on track.

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