Nokia, BT Group & Qualcomm achieve enhanced 5G SA downlink speeds using 5G Carrier Aggregation with 5 Component Carriers

BT claims to be the first European network operator to achieve 5G carrier aggregation with five component carriers (5G CC CA).  Led by BT Networks team at Adastral Park, with support from BT Research, this is the latest milestone in 5G innovation for us, and promises to deliver potentially even faster 5G SA downlink speeds in the future, of up to nearly 2 Gbps. What this means for customers is a significant boost in performance in areas of high demand when the 5G SA device requires a high-speed connection, for example when watching live sport at a train station in rush hour.

The 5G CC CA trial used  Nokia’s 5G AirScale portfolio and a device powered by a Snapdragon® 5G Modem-RF system from Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a pioneer and global leader in 5G technology.  Here are the highlights:

  • BT Group becomes first European operator to achieve 5G 5CC carrier aggregation, boosting 5G standalone (SA) performance ahead of network launch later this year.
  • Combines three FDD and two TDD carriers with 150 MHz total bandwidth, delivering greater capacity and downlink speeds in areas of high demand.
  • Follows 5G SA downlink 4CC carrier aggregation breakthrough in 2022, and concurrent two carrier uplink aggregation in 2023.

5CC CA will significantly boost the data rates available to customers in areas of high demand by combining all mid-band radio spectrum when the 5G SA device requires a high-speed connection. Set to launch later this year, EE’s 5G SA network will also have the capability to leverage a low frequency sixth carrier to provide a superior experience in more places, including indoors.

In 2023, BT Group and Nokia successfully demonstrated 4CC CA in 5G SA downlink with concurrent 2CC CA in 5G SA uplink. With today’s announcement, the companies reached the next milestone, achieving further performance uplift in connections from the device to the network by increasing throughput and capacity.

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 1.85 Gbps 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 maximizing our spectrum assets to deliver the very best experience to our customers with that in mind.”

Mark Atkinson, SVP and Head of RAN at Nokia, said: “This successful trial with our long-standing partner, BT is another great example of Nokia’s clear leadership in 5G carrier aggregation technology. Multi-component carrier aggregation helps mobile operators to maximize their radio network assets and provide the highest 5G data rates at more locations to subscribers.”

Dino Flore, Vice President, Technology, Qualcomm Europe, Inc. said: “Qualcomm Technologies is committed to pushing the boundaries of 5G connectivity, and our Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems are designed to unlock the full potential of 5G, delivering unparalleled speed, efficiency and capacity for networks and their users. We are proud to work with Nokia and BT Group to play a key role in bringing this enhanced 5G experience to European consumers.”

BT added the following:

This follows on from previous carrier aggregation ‘firsts’ aimed at boosting 5G SA performance across both downlink and uplink, where demand for greater speeds is growing in importance for a number of both existing and emerging use-cases, including live-streaming and video calls.

Today’s achievement has been delivered with one eye on the future, too. The 5G SA handset ecosystem right now is relatively small, but we expect to see more and more devices come to market by the early part of next year which are capable of supporting this technology. So we’re laying down a marker to say that at EE, as the UK’s best and most reliable network1, we are building capabilities into our network to support both the devices of today and the future.

We want to ensure that we really deliver on the promise of 5G SA for our customers, and an ongoing focus on innovation and research will be key to achieving this. Whether that’s through carrier aggregation advancements like today’s, demonstrating network slicing capabilities for guaranteed quality of service, or exploring how we can support the emerging IoT ecosystem through the likes of 5G RedCap technology, we’ll continue to prioritize advancements in network quality to support the evolution of the 5G services ecosystem.


In January, T-Mobile conducted a six-component carrier (6CC) aggregation download using sub-6-GHz spectrum on its live 5G network saying it was the first time that’s ever been done. The test involved aggregating two channels of 2.5 GHz, two channels of PCS spectrum and two channels of AWS spectrum, according to T-Mobile US, which produced an “effective 245 MHz of aggregated 5G channels.”

T-Mo said that they were able to “achieve download speeds of 3.6 Gbps in sub-6 GHz spectrum.  That’s fast enough to download a two-hour HD movie in less than 7 seconds!”

Resources and additional information:
Website: Nokia AirScale
Website: Nokia 5G RAN
Website: 5G Carrier Aggregation explained
Website: Multi-Gigabit 5G with Carrier Aggregation | Nokia


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