Ericsson, MediaTek demo dual connectivity for standalone 5G

5G speed
Ericsson expects a commercial release of 5G NR dual connectivity functionality in the third quarter of 2021. (Getty Images)

Ericsson and MediaTek combined millimeter wave (mmWave) and mid-band spectrum bands in a test of New Radio Dual Connectivity (NR DC) for standalone 5G.

Vendors and carriers have been working on 5G carrier aggregation (CA) technology to combine different spectrum channels (called carriers), and that spectrum aggregation technique can work alongside New Radio Dual Connectivity.

“NR DC or New Radio Dual Connectivity allows user equipment (UE) to be connected to two serving nodes and in each node it is possible to connect multiple carriers using the carrier aggregation technique,” explained Patrik Persson, strategic product manager for 5G RAN at Ericsson, in an email to Fierce. “The two technologies co-exist to maximize the available spectrum towards the device.”

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In the recent demo, MediaTek and Ericsson hit speeds of 5.1 Gbps, connecting a single device to both a sub-6 GHz node and mmWave node using dual connectivity. By utilizing both sub-6 GHz and mmWave, dual connectivity coupled the broader reach of the mid-band with the faster speeds of mmWave.

In the mmWave node, Ericsson ran carrier aggregation to combine eight 100 MHz carriers (for a total of 800 MHz of mmWave), in the 28 GHz (or n261) band. The second node involved a 60 MHz mid-band channel at 3.7 GHz (n77), according to Persson.   

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It marked the first time that mmWave has been tested in standalone 5G mode combined with mid-band, according to Ericsson.

The Swedish vendor’s radio hardware and 5G core products were used alongside end user equipment with MediaTek’s M80 modem. The demo involved sending the signal over-the-air within a mmWave chamber to the MediaTek-powered device.

5G Dual Connectivity (or NR DC) helps deliver faster uplink and downlink data rates to end users, and delivers a coverage boost. Others have used dual connectivity to aggregate LTE and 5G for a speed bump, as in Samsung tests earlier this year that reached 5.23 Gbps with help from EN-DC technology.

However, Ericsson’s latest milestone is a proof point designed for the shift to standalone 5G – which some operators are starting to make and where LTE is no longer part of the picture. Ericsson just this week helped Vodafone turn on its initial standalone 5G network in Germany

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“NR DC is defined to be only used in standalone 5G since the master node must be connected to 5G Core Network (5G CN),” Persson said. “It is the natural extension of standalone 5G as it allows combining existing standalone networks with mmWave nodes.”

Ericsson’s Hannes Ekstrom called out the tech as an attractive option for carriers planning SA 5G deployments.

“We believe that New Radio Dual Connectivity will be a very appealing option to many customers globally as part of their 5G Standalone deployment strategies,” said Hannes Ekstrom, head of Product Line 5G RAN at Ericsson, in a statement. “It will enable millimeter wave in the multi-layer network with speeds of over 5 Gbps. Greater capacity and coverage – combined with SA capabilities such as ultra-low latency – will push the boundaries of 5G technology that will benefit consumers and industry.”

Ericsson expects a commercial release of 5G NR DC functionality in the third quarter.