BT and Nokia achieve European first carrier aggregation on 5G SA

(Image credit: Google)

BT has become the first European mobile operator to successfully combine four channels of spectrum on a live 5G standalone (SA) network in a development that will help fulfil the speed and capacity promises of next-generation mobile services.

Carrier aggregation fuses separate spectrum bands together to harness the advantages of each. For example, marrying the coverage and indoor propagation rates of low-band frequencies with the high capacity and data rates of mid and high band airwaves.

In addition to the performance gains, operators can use their existing spectrum assets to reduce the cost of network deployment.

5G SA carrier aggregation 

Working with Nokia, BT combined EE’s commercial 2.1 GHz, 2.6GHz, 3.4GHz and 3.6GHz frequencies on a radio mast at its Adastral Park research facility in Suffolk. 

This is the first time four channel components (4CC) have been combined outside a lab setting in Europe.

BT says 4CC will deliver the full benefit of its 5G SA infrastructure. Early 5G deployments have relied 5G non-standalone, which uses new radio technologies but still relies on an underlying 4G core, but 5G SA is powered by a virtual, cloud-based core that allows data to be processed closer to the point of collection.

This allows for guaranteed speeds, enhanced reliability and ultra-low latency – essential for some of the most revolutionary 5G applications, especially in industrial settings.

“As we migrate to a 5G SA core network, this technology milestone is vital to giving our customers the best experience” commented Greg McCall, Managing Director of Service Platforms at BT. 

“5G SA, coupled with edge compute, will unlock new opportunities for customers looking to develop new services. Furthermore, this technology showcases what’s possible for devices in the future in terms of supporting carrier aggregation, which is an important part of customer experience.”

 “We are once again delighted to be deepening our partnership with BT, supporting them with our industry-leading Carrier Aggregation technology for this trial,” added Mark Atkinson, senior vice president of Radio Access Networks PLM at Nokia. “Nokia and BT have a long history in investing in cutting-edge technologies and this trial is another example of what our companies can achieve together.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.