5G and Sharing Spectrum to Accelerate Deployment
Smart city, autonomous vehicles and IoT projects have been on the rise calling for a quick 5G rollout. However, 5G cell network deployment can be a Herculean task. Just think of the number of small cells that will have to be deployed.
Not to forget the cumbersome process of deployment.
Working towards a more feasible solution for the short term, telecommunications firms have found a better way out to accelerate deployment — what they call Dynamic Spectrum Sharing or DSS.
DSS is enabled by a software upgrade that facilitates optimum usage of the existing 4G LTE spectrum and 5G NR-capable radios to deliver 5G services. This means operators can share the 20 MHz mid-band spectrum between 4G LTE and 5G. Put simply, operators leverage software upgrades to operate 5G and 4G LTE within the same band and at the same time based on user requirements.
It is quite evident that the software upgrade will reduce the need for new towers to support the technology, resulting in faster rollouts and reduced costs. Moreover, the installation and setup is easy. Ericsson, in fact, claims that the software upgrade can be done remotely. Ericsson’s Spectrum Sharing software is based on intelligent scheduler algorithms that facilitate rapid introduction of 5G by leveraging the existing infrastructure — essentially converting the existing 4G towers to hybrid 4G-5G towers. It is expected to be useful in connecting rural areas and high-density locations. So DSS seems to smoothen out most of the deployment process.
Isn’t that a breather for stakeholders?
Even so, analysts haven’t yet called the technology a ‘game-changer.’ GlobalData’s senior analyst Ed Gubbin says that the value of DSS depends on the operator’s spectrum assets and 5G rollout plans1. Experts have added that DSS will play an important role once the core networks of operators are upgraded to 5G. At the time, DSS will aid in network slicing.
However, we are yet to reach that stage.
Where we stand?
For now, network operators and telecommunications equipment firms have been using DSS for their 5G rollout plans. T-Mobile and Verizon intend to introduce the technology into their networks in 2020 in the US. Ericsson is helping Telia Norway to upgrade its network, with 5G rollout expected to start in 2020, continuing until 2023. In Switzerland, Sunrise Communications has already launched 5G in over 150 towns leveraging Huawei’s technology. South Korea has also joined the bandwagon, with LG U+ selecting Ericsson as its 5G RAN vendor2. Meanwhile, Vodafone Germany has used Ericsson’s Massive MIMO AIR 6488 commercial hardware and Baseband 6630 to deploy 5G in 20 towns and cities while Deutsche Telecom has decided to roll out 5G antennas in the 18 months from August 2019.
On the technology front, Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson have successfully completed the world’s first 5G data call using spectrum sharing on a 3GPP Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) low band3. The firms used hardware and software that is based on Ericsson Radio System and Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X55 5G Modem-RF System-powered mobile test device. To improve its DSS technology which re-schedules spectrum every millisecond, Ericsson has collaborated with Nvidia for bringing together their RAN technology expertise and graphics processing unit-powered compute4. To support and accelerate DSS and 5G NR rollouts, PC-Tel has developed scanning receivers to test 4G LTE and 5G NR coverage and signal quality at the same time. These efforts are supported by the development of mobile phones by Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo and others with 5G-support capability. Qualcomm has been working on chips for consumer devices that will facilitate the use of DSS-enabled spectrum. The firm has also been developing a cellular chip for Microsoft’s Azure Sphere IoT operating system.
That’s a lot of work going into 5G technology.
These fragmented efforts have certainly contributed to the 5G world. In fact, Qualcomm’s President Cristiano Amon has said that DSS will be a key enabler of coverage expansion. However, he has rightly observed that stakeholders and partners will have to work together to unlock the true potential of 5G across industries.
What efforts are being made to bring 5G to enterprise? How will 5G help transform industries? Delve into 5G revolution at the upcoming 5G Expo North America 2019 in California.