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O2 to launch standalone 5G in Germany this summer

Telefónica’s German operation has taken its first steps in carrier aggregation for 5G and expects hat to lead to the launch of standalone 5G this summer.

O2 Deutschland currently offers 5G using 3.6 GHz frequencies, with around 1,000 antennas covering 30-plus cities, it announced a few weeks ago. Now it has upgraded one 5G facility at Helene-Mayer-Ring 10 in Munich using carrier aggregation to offer a faster service, provided customers have the appropriate device, of course; the telco named the Xiaomi Mi 11 5G as an example.

It did not specify which frequencies it is aggregating with 3.6 GHz, instead making vague references to the potential of the 700 MHz and 1800 MHz bands for boosting 5G. However, local news outlet Computer Base reported that in this first instance the telco has wrapped together 3.6 GHz and 1800 MHz to achieve speeds almost double those it is able to offer with its current 5G service.

The publication also confirmed with Telefónica that it is still able to use dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) at the same time as carrier aggregation, enabling the antenna in question to serve up both 5G and LTE at 1800 MHz.

For its part, Telefónica simply said it will add additional frequencies in future at both 700 MHz and 1800 MHz.

“We are continuously working on the further development of 5G in order to be able to offer our customers the full potential of 5G as quickly as possible. In this context, carrier aggregation is an important step that we have taken as the first network operator in Germany,” said Mallik Rao, Chief Technology & Information Officer at Telefónica Deutschland. “The next important step for us will be the launch of 5G standalone.”

The telco has pledged to launch standalone 5G “this summer,” without sharing a more firm timeframe than that. “Then, for the first time, the O2 network will also offer gigabit speeds, enable applications to communicate in real time with low latency times of just a few milliseconds, and introduce innovative services such as network slicing,” it said.

But let’s go back to Rao’s comment for a minute. It’s all very well Telefónica claiming to be the first in Germany to offer carrier aggregation, but it’s worth pointing out that one of its major rivals, Vodafone’s local unit, recently launched standalone 5G.

A month ago Vodafone announced that it had upgraded around 1,000 base stations at 3.5 GHz to standalone 5G; it expected users to be able to access the technology in a matter of weeks, pending software updates on a couple of devices. Meanwhile, incumbent Deutsche Telekom shared details of its first standalone 5G video call back in March. So while Telefónica’s 5G carrier aggregation efforts are a step in the right direction, the telco is up against some stiff competition in Germany.

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