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Nokia leapfrogs to 3.9 Gbps with its industry leading 5G Carrier Aggregation solutions

Nokia leapfrogs to 3.9 Gbps with its industry leading 5G Carrier Aggregation solutions

As operators worldwide are increasingly adopting 5G Standalone (SA) architecture, achieving competitive 5G SA data rates and maximizing site coverage is crucial. In contrast to 5G in Non-Standalone (NSA) mode, 5G SA cannot resort to 4G-5G dual connectivity for boosting enhanced mobile broadband data rates. To achieve highest possible data throughputs with their available spectrum, many operators are prioritizing their 5G network evolution based on 5G Carrier Aggregation.

Carrier Aggregation (CA) means combining or aggregating several carriers within or across available frequency bands – referred to as component carriers - for achieving higher data rates. Each additional component carrier increases the available bandwidth and, therefore, improves throughput. In the case of carrier aggregating Frequency-Division Duplex (FDD) and Time-Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum together, this also enables a value-adding solution that “stretches” the site coverage area that can offer those higher data rates. In this way, operators can enhance user experience in existing use cases and unlock new, more demanding use cases for their consumers and enterprise customers.

Taking 5G Standalone data rates to the next level on sub-6GHz bands

To highlight the power of Carrier Aggregation with 5G Standalone, Nokia has now combined 4 component carriers (4CC-CA) on sub-6 GHz spectrum, with the result of exceeding user data rates of 3.9 Gbps!

This was achieved using Nokia’s commercial AirScale technology connected to devices powered by smartphone modems from our chipset partners. The new speed record, using sub-6GHz spectrum, is a giant step forward for the industry, building on the world’s first successful 5G 3CC-CA (carrier aggregation using 3 component carriers) test with Nokia’s AirScale equipment and a Mediatek device, which was announced in October 2021.

Expanding our CA capabilities to 4 component carriers is another major milestone that takes 5G Standalone performance to the next level. The screenshot below shows throughput results from our ongoing tests with Qualcomm.

Fig. 1.

The sub-6 GHz spectrum is the most-widely used spectrum for 5G. It consists of FDD allocations, between 600 MHz and 2.6 GHz, and TDD allocations, between 2.3 GHz and 6 GHz. The lower frequency bands provide the best coverage performance whereas the higher frequency bands typically provide higher bandwidths and capacity.

5G TDD+FDD carrier aggregation is a powerful solution for boosting coverage performance throughout the network. By combining the Uplink of FDD spectrum with the Downlink of TDD band, we have a solution to stretch the coverage area served by the TDD spectrum significantly further. This provides higher average data rates across the network, including when users are inside buildings and vehicles.

Our latest 4CC-CA capability features 4 component carriers across two FDD carriers and two TDD carriers. Our radio frequency configuration for the setup was highly integrated, as we needed only 2 radio units where other equipment vendors may eventually need 3 or 4 radios to achieve the same:

  • On the 2.5GHz TDD band, we used a single wide-bandwidth AirScale 64 TRX massive MIMO antenna serving 190 MHz across two component carriers.
  • The two FDD bands were served by one AirScale dual-band Remote Radio Head (RRH). AirScale RRH’s are available in single-, dual- and triple-band versions. The multi-band versions are particularly CAPEX and OPEX efficient

Fig. 2.

This configuration was powered via a software upgrade on one AirScale Baseband capacity card. Up to six capacity plug-ins fit into one AirScale baseband unit. The unique in-node scalability of AirScale baseband makes it ready for multi-carrier 5G evolution in the long term, which is a clear differentiator versus our competitors’ baseband offerings. We suspect that their baseband architectures will be a hinderance to the timely deployment of 5G Carrier Aggregation solutions.

Read more about Nokia AirScale radio portfolio on our webpage.

Making the best use of available spectrum

If we look at spectrum availability for operators in advanced markets, we see that they typically use about 6 distinct spectrum allocations on different FDD bands. As 5G is increasingly deployed on these bands, their combined bandwidth is relevant for enhancing user data rates while also providing coverage wherever users expect it. To enable flexibility, the Nokia CA solution also supports the combined use of the FDD bands for 4G LTE and 5G (SA and/or NSA) using Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS).

While mid-band allocations often have up to 100 MHz wide 5G carriers, current FDD allocations are typically not wider than 20 MHz each. To get the best 5G performance out of the spectrum and network assets, adopting multi-component Carrier Aggregation together with user equipment that can support these capabilities is the key.

Getting ready to gain the benefits of 5G evolution

At Nokia, we have designed our AirScale RAN equipment with multi-carrier RAN evolution in mind: We have a long track record of leading in 4G Carrier Aggregation development with up to 2 Gbps downlink data rates using the highest component carrier configurations supported by commercial 4G smartphone modems. Now, as 5G-capable devices emerge this year that can support 3 and 4 component carriers for Carrier Aggregation, we will help operators gain the benefits of this evolution into 5G.

The following Nokia 5G Carrier Aggregation solutions are commercially available today with our “22R1” Release:

  • low band (FDD) 2CC and 3CC carrier aggregation
  • mid band (TDD) 2CC carrier aggregation
  • low band (FDD) + mid band (TDD) 2CC and 3CC carrier aggregation
  • mid band (TDD) + low band (FDD) 2CC and 3CC carrier aggregation
  • mmWave 8CC carrier aggregation

Both consumers and enterprises will be looking for services such as augmented and virtual reality, which need high bandwidth and low latency wherever the users are. Multi-carrier Carrier Aggregation combined with 5G Standalone is a big step forward in providing excellent user experience for these services.

We will not stop here! Nokia continues to collaborate with ecosystem partners and operators to further increase the number of sub-6GHz component carriers we will support with Carrier Aggregation, thereby making higher user data rates and superior coverage a reality for operators using Nokia 5G RAN technology.

To conclude, our commercial 4CC-CA solution comes with our “22R3” Release, which will be available in August 2022.


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Mark Atkinson

About Mark Atkinson

Mark Atkinson heads Radio Access Networks within Nokia Mobile Networks Business Group. Mark is responsible for System Product Management, Global Sales Development and Product Marketing and he carries the Business Management (P&L) responsibility for Nokia’s Radio Access Networks portfolio, including hardware, software and services.

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