Vodafone has given hope to the mobile community that a significant technique known as dynamic spectrum sharing, which can help operators get 5G services to market quicker and make better use of their airwaves, might soon be achievable in commercial networks.
Dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), which enables operators to offer 4G and 5G services over the same spectrum, has long been identified as a credible way for operators to become more efficient and effective as they start to roll out 5G services: In the US, AT&T and Verizon have both stated they will make use of DSS as part of their 5G rollout strategies, most likely this year.
And DSS was recently cited by Heavy Reading's 5G expert Gabriel Brown as a key approach for operators looking to expand their 5G service availability during 2020. Brown, one of the industry's most respected 5G network technology analysts, has previously described DSS as "one of the most important 5G developments in 2020."
Now Vodafone, via an online "Perspectives" blog, says it has made a successful breakthrough in terms of how DSS could be used commercially. Working with Ericsson, Huawei and Qualcomm, Vodafone says it enabled DSS using two "low spectrum bands" (700MHz and 800MHz) on a non-standalone (NSA) device in its labs in Düsseldorf. "800MHz was used as the 'anchor band' while 700MHz was shared dynamically between 4G and 5G, allowing operators to seamlessly allocate spectrum resources according to demands on the network," notes the operator: You can read the whole blog here.
Brown tells Light Reading that the use two low bands is particularly significant. The classic view of DSS, he says, is where lowband spectrum would be paired with a slice of midband spectrum. What Vodafone has tested, though, is the use of two low bands, which would be very useful where operators don't have midband spectrum -- for example, outside urban areas.
The use case here is particularly relevant to European operators, notes Brown, as many European countries have been freeing up 700MHz spectrum (previously used by digital TV) to auction to mobile operators, which have already been using the 800MHz band extensively for 4G services. If those operators can pick up 700MHz spectrum in upcoming auctions, they will have the opportunity to use the 700MHz airwaves to offer 5G services but also to provide additional capacity to support 4G services where their 800MHz capacity is maxed out and then balance the use of the two bands accordingly as 5G services grow in popularity.
Ultimately, this is all about operators being able to use their available spectrum assets in the most efficient and useful way -- something they strive to do every day, no matter which G is in vogue.
So when can we expect to see Vodafone sharing news of a commercial DSS deployment? It's keeping that information to itself currently.
But with major US operators touting the use of DSS, the likes of China Mobile examining its potential (see below) and Vodafone highlighting its lab breakthroughs, we can expect to hear a lot more about the potential of DSS and its impending introduction into commercial networks during the upcoming Mobile World Congress.
For more on this topic, see:
- 5G Networks in 2020: Show Me, Don't Tell Me
- Migration to Cloud-Native 5G Core
- Verizon CEO Says Dynamic Spectrum Sharing Will Arrive for Shared 4G & 5G in 2020
- Sprint Opens Up About 5G's Secret 4G Love
- First CloudAIR LTE TDD & NR Dynamic Spectrum Sharing Commercial Verified by China Mobile & Huawei
- The Journey From 4G to 5G Will Begin With 1 Millisecond
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading