Saudi Telecom Company (stc) and Belgian carrier BICS say they have set up the first-ever intercontinental 5G Standalone roaming connection between two live networks in Europe and the Middle East.

The connection achieved roaming between the 5G SA networks of Belgian mobile operator Proximus and Middle-East-based operator stc Kuwait. The firms say this is the ‘first of its kind’ to be completed outside of a lab.

The firms say operators have up until now only been delivering 5G non-standalone roaming which routes traffic through a 4G/LTE core, so it therefore represents ‘a watershed moment for the readiness of international 5G SA services and use cases.’

“To have been a part of this breakthrough moment for 5G is something we are very proud of,” said Eng Fahad Al Ali, Chief Technology Officer at stc Kuwait. “stc’s mission has long been to enable digital transformation, and in establishing this first-ever 5G Standalone roaming connection we are leading the way – not just for Kuwait, but for the world. stc believes Standalone 5G will bring untold benefits that will enrich the lifestyles of both individual and corporate customers by accelerating innovation across borders through pioneering roaming solutions.”

Geert Standaert, Chief Technology Officer at Proximus added: “The roaming test represents a huge watershed moment for Proximus in our 5G roll-out. Our goal is to bring next-generation experiences to our customers. 5G roaming plays a major role in delivering on that promise. We are excited to have reached this stage through our partnership with stc and BICS, and now look ahead to rolling out the opportunities of 5G Standalone for the benefits of our customers and enterprises alike.”

It’s another in a long line of tests which demonstrate a very specific technical first with regards to 5G connectivity, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But as we’ve said before, while all these tests and trials – whether they are in a lab or involved other controlled conditions – might be valid in their own very niche ways, no matter how many of them the industry rolls out they’re going to mean very little to anyone outside of it. We are several years into the lifecycle of 5G and what matters now is producing some tangible use cases for it in the real world, something which it has to be said we are still waiting for.

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