Nokia and O2 Telefónica Germany say they have aggregated sub-6 GHz spectrum frequencies in an ‘industry first’ two-component carrier uplink carrier aggregation (CA) trial on 5G standalone.

The trial took place at the O2 Telefónica’s Innovation Cluster near Berlin and was carried out on its commercial network, as opposed to a controlled lab setting. We’re told while Nokia has already demonstrated four component carrier downlink 5G Carrier Aggregation and uplink Carrier Aggregation on millimetre wave spectrum, so the significance of this move is that it is the first to combine sub-6 GHz spectrum to boost uplink throughput.

The idea is being pitched as a ‘best of both worlds’ situation. 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, has been combined to apparently provide both higher data rates and increased coverage. The assertion is that this combination working in unison can reduce the cost of network construction while improving network coverage and provide low latency.

In terms of the technical gubbins behind it, Nokia provided kit from its AirScale portfolio including Baseband, massive MIMO, and RRH products, powered by its Reefshark chipset. MediaTek served up its MediaTek Release-16 M80 modem integrated into the MediaTek Dimensity 9000 flagship chipset.

“We want to offer our customers an optimal 5G experience in their everyday digital lives,” said Mallik Rao, Chief Technology & Information Officer at O2 Telefónica. “We are continuously working on technological innovations that will make our O2 network of the future more powerful. 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.”

Mark Atkinson, SVP, Radio Access Networks at Nokia added: “This successful carrier aggregation uplink trial on sub-6 GHz spectrum is yet another example of Nokia’s innovation and technology leadership and the continuation of our fruitful partnership with O2 Telefónica. While many 5G services require high downlink data rates, increasing sub-6 GHz 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 maximizing radio network efficiencies.”

Of course not a day goes by without some sort of incremental technical announcement in the telecoms space, but it’s all progress and this particular step forward by Nokia and O2 gains some significance as it seems to have been achieved on a live network as opposed to lab conditions, where things can be achieved that are not necessarily immediately ready to be released into the wild.

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