Nokia and A1 Austria have declared they have successfully verified 3 component carrier aggregation (3CC CA) in a 5G standalone trial in Austria, clocking 2Gbps download speeds.

The trial used Nokia’s AirScale 5G baseband, a non-descript 5G smartphone, and a commercial 5G CPE over A1 Austria’s 5G network. Nokia and A1 Telekom claim they successfully combined two mid-band carriers in the 3.5 GHz TDD band (n78) and one capacity carrier in the 2100 MHz FDD band (n1) which added up to a total bandwidth of 160 MHz, thanks to the carrier aggregation technology. The end result of this was a peak downlink data rate of 2 Gbps.

“This trial is an important milestone as we continue to deliver on our strategy of bringing best-in-class 5G services to our subscribers,” Alexander Stock, CTO, A1 Austria added. “Maximizing our spectrum assets will enhance coverage, capacity, and performance and we are pleased to continue to work with our long-standing partner, Nokia to realize the full potential of 5G technology.”

Mark Atkinson, SVP, Radio Access Networks at Nokia added: “Nokia is the market leader in implementing 5G Carrier Aggregation solutions for different spectrum combinations. It has been exciting to support our trusted partner A1 in this trial showcasing how Carrier Aggregation is a major stepping stone for reaching Multi-Gigabit 5G data rates and enabling radio network efficiencies.”

There have been a few of these trials buzzing away of late, involving various combinations of operator and kit vendor. Last week, Nokia and O2 Telefónica Germany announced they had aggregated sub-6 GHz spectrum frequencies in an ‘industry first’ two-component carrier uplink carrier aggregation (CA) trial on 5G standalone.

In that trial, uplink carrier aggregation of FDD (think of a dual carriageway of upload and download traffic), using 20 MHz of 1800 MHz frequency, and TDD (think of a traffic sharing a single lane but controlled with traffic lights), using 70 MHz of 3.6 GHz frequency, were combined to apparently provide both higher data rates and increased coverage, in what was pitched as a ‘best of both worlds’ situation.

In August BT claimed to have achieved a Europe-first by aggregating four carrier components (4CC) in a 5G standalone (SA) live network trial. Working again with Nokia, the operator apparently combined four low and mid bands (2.1, 2.6, 3.4, 3.6 GHz) into one connection allowing increased data rates per user.

However as an industry we often seem to forget to nail down what it is these faster mobile speeds can practically provide that wasn’t available before – people would presumably struggle to bump into the limits of a proper 5G connection in a way that would impede whatever they could reasonably be doing on their smartphones anyway. So what is the game changing application of these trials?

Not dismiss the no doubt genuine progress that is involved, but it could be argued there is a slight issue in framing every single technical inch-forward as a ground breaking milestone – if everything is, then nothing is.

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