EE UK Pushes 5G Standalone Mobile Broadband Test to 1.85Gbps

Mobile operator EE (BT) claims to have achieved a “European first” with Nokia and Qualcomm in the UK by trialling Carrier Aggregation (CA) on 5G Standalone (5G SA) mobile technology with Five Component Carriers (i.e. 150MHz total bandwidth), which boosted their mobile broadband download speeds to 1.85Gbps.

The majority of most UK 5G network today are Non-Standalone (NSA), which means they’re still partly reliant on older and slower 4G infrastructure. But SA networks are pure end-to-end 5G that can deliver ultra-low latency times, greater energy efficiency, better upload speeds, network slicing, improved support for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, support for Voice over New Radio (VoNR or Vo5G) and increased reliability and security etc.

NOTE: Network slicing allows for multiple virtual network slices across the same physical network. Each slice is isolated from other network traffic to give dedicated performance, with the features of the slice tailored to the use case requirements (online gaming, enhanced mobile broadband etc.).

So far we’ve already seen both Vodafone (here) and O2 (here) launching 5G SA services in the UK, initially across the busiest parts of major cities. Meanwhile, the BT Group has said that they intend, via EE, to follow suit during the second half of 2024 (here). As part of that, EE have been trying to find ways of squeezing as much of a performance advantage out of the future upgrade as possible.

One of the ways of achieving this is by harnessing Carrier Aggregation (CA) to combine several radio spectrum bands to support a single extremely fast connection. This is not a new technology (4G used CA too), but applying this many channels (five) – all in mid-band frequencies – to the latest 5G SA technologies is at the cutting edge of commercial mobile networks.

The tests were conducted in the field on live network spectrum at Adastral Park, BT Group’s headquarters for R&D, using Nokia’s 5G AirScale portfolio and a device powered by a Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF system from Qualcomm Technologies. Downlink speeds of 1.85Gbps (Gigabits per second) were reached, using three FDD carriers NR2600 (30MHz), NR2100 (20MHz), NR1800 (20MHz) aggregated with two TDD carriers NR3600 (40+40MHz).

Greg McCall, Chief Networks Officer at BT Group, said:

“This latest milestone achieved with Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies enhances 5G SA performance as we work towards the launch of our network, building further on the benefits of carrier aggregation in delivering greater throughput and speeds to customers. This is particularly important as more and more devices come to market with 5CC CA capabilities. We are focused on maximising our spectrum assets to deliver the very best experience to our customers with that in mind.”

The final launch network will “also have the capability to leverage a low frequency sixth carrier” (6 channels), which should provide another boost and aid indoor connectivity too (lower frequencies travel further). Despite being a bit late to the 5G SA party, we’d expect EE to launch the new service with a decent amount of coverage in urban areas, as they usually like to have a good reach before officially going live.

Recent Posts