Spectrum sharing is becoming a bigger issue as the 5G radio specification evolves.

Mingxi Fan, Vice President, Engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

December 2, 2016

4 Min Read
5G Spectrum Sharing Brings Innovations

With the acceleration of the 5G New Radio (NR) standards, the interest in 5G shared spectrum grows. The good news is that 5G NR is designed to operate over a wide array of spectrum bands, from low bands below 1GHz and mid bands from 1GHz to 6GHz, to high bands such as mmWave. In addition, 5G NR is also designed to operate across different spectrum types, from licensed spectrum to unlicensed and shared spectrum.

Figure 1: Figure 1: Different spectrum types Figure 1: Different spectrum types

5G NR promises to support a wide variation of requirements from extreme bandwidth to use cases such as immersive virtual and augmented reality, connecting the massive Internet of Things and enable mission-critical services with sub-millisecond latency. So far, the main industry focus for 5G NR has been on licensed spectrum. It is important, however, to note that access to shared/unlicensed spectrum can extend 5G in multiple dimensions, including enhanced end-user data rates with opportunistic access to more spectrum, more efficient local and private network operation, and new deployment use cases for industrial applications. 5G NR is designed to natively support all spectrum types with the flexibility to take advantage of potentially new spectrum-sharing paradigms, thanks to the design of frame structure with forward compatibility. This creates opportunities for new innovation to take spectrum sharing to the next level in 5G.

For mobile operators, 5G spectrum sharing will enable operators to opportunistically aggregate more spectrum to dynamically support extreme bandwidths for fiber-like experiences. Additionally, 5G spectrum sharing can extend the benefits of 5G NR technologies and the ecosystem to entities that do not have access to licensed spectrum, such as cable operators, enterprises and IoT verticals.

Figure 2: Figure 2: Spectrum sharing is valuable for wide range of deployments Figure 2: Spectrum sharing is valuable for wide range of deployments

Qualcomm Technologies is already pioneering spectrum-sharing technologies in LTE with concepts such as:

  • LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U) and Licensed Assisted Access

    • MulteFire that enables high-performance cellular technology to operate standalone in unlicensed spectrum

    • Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) where multiple deployments can share spectrum with a higher prioritized incumbent

      We are building and expanding on these concepts in 5G NR, and yet adding innovations around new spectrum-sharing paradigms. So what are these new innovations? As already mentioned, a main disadvantage of unlicensed/shared spectrum is the lack of QoS guarantee. Concepts such as QoS are nowadays taken for granted in licensed spectrum, but are more challenging when sharing spectrum. As such, some of the innovation is focused on making spectrum sharing operate robustly to approach the predictable performance of licensed spectrum while maintaining the flexibility.

      Another area of innovation is to improve the overall spectrum utilization when sharing the spectrum among multiple deployments. This can be achieved by dynamic listen-before-talk at lower loads, since collisions are less likely and gains are seen from trunking efficiency over a fixed-resource partition when combining traffic in the same spectrum. At higher loads, however, achieving higher performance with dynamic sharing over a fixed-resource partition is more challenging due to more collisions. This is another area for new innovation that, with a clever coordinated sharing mechanism, one can achieve significant performance merit with dynamic spectrum sharing across loading conditions as illustrated by our early simulation results.

      Figure 3: Figure 3: Simulation results from spectrum sharing in an indoor scenario with two deployments Figure 3: Simulation results from spectrum sharing in an indoor scenario with two deployments

      Recently we announced a 5G NR spectrum-sharing prototype system (see below). We will use this testbed to both drive and track 5G NR standardization in the area of spectrum sharing. Next year, the focus of the testbed will be on technology development, but we are already planning to follow up with field trials with industry leaders. This testbed adds to our existing 5G NR sub-6GHz and millimeter wave prototype systems. We are excited to bring additional innovation to 5G in the area of spectrum sharing and we see a lot of potential for 5G to leverage all spectrum types in both licensed and unlicensed as well as new shared-spectrum paradigms. To learn more about 5G shared spectrum please watch our webinar.

      Figure 4: Figure 4: NR spectrum-sharing prototype system Figure 4: NR spectrum-sharing prototype system

      — Mingxi Fan, Vice President of Engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

About the Author(s)

Mingxi Fan

Vice President, Engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Dr. Mingxi Fan joined the division in 2002 as a system engineer on cdma2000 EV-DO project. He has worked on driving key technology initiatives on cdma2000, UMTS and LTE from concept to commercialization. His responsibilities spanned system design, prototype, standardization, technology positioning and evangelization and commercial product development and verification. He also established Qualcomm Research China operation in 2008 as the first overseas research division for the company. He is presently leading the R&D initiative for taking LTE to unlicensed bands. Mingxi holds more than 20 US patents and has received top contributor awards in Qualcomm Research in 2004 and 2011.

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