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Network operator BT managed to incorporate four carrier components (CC) into a standalone 5G network during a recent test. According to the British operator, this is the first time the technique has been successfully demonstrated on a live European network. Four CCs increase the bandwidth and speed of standalone 5G.

Carrier aggregation is a network technique that involves multiple carrier components (CC) to increase the speed of connections. The technique is used by operators of LTE Advanced (LTE+) networks, among others. Standalone 5G networks can benefit from carrier aggregation. Several organizations are researching ways to optimize the technique in standalone 5G networks.

One of the researchers is BT. The British operator provides telecom services to millions of businesses in the UK and Ireland. The organization claims it recently achieved a breakthrough in carrier aggregation for standalone 5G. BT managed to incorporate four CCs (4CC) into a standalone 5G network operated by EE. The network operator was acquired by BT in 2016. 4CC increases the speed and capacity of EE’s standalone 5G network.

Standalone 5G and non-standalone 5G

EE’s standalone 5G network isn’t generally available yet. EE’s current 5G services run on a non-standalone 5G network, just like most major 5G networks today.

Non-standalone 5G means that the core of a network runs on 4G equipment. Connections are slower than the theoretical speed of 5G. That speed only emerges in a standalone 5G network, where the core of the network runs on 5G equipment.

Standalone 5G is more expensive for operators than non-standalone 5G at this time. As manufacturers continue to develop their network equipment, standalone 5G becomes more accessible. Back in July, Vodafone Germany announced its standalone 5G network was ready to serve an area of 15 million people. We expect several operators to announce similar news in the coming months.

4CC in standalone 5G

The release date of BT and EE’s standalone 5G services is unknown. Furthermore, BT indicates that 4CC carrier aggregation will not be deployed in the entire network. “This technology will be in parts of our network when we launch 5G Standalone services”, the organization told The Register.

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