AT&T is the first to deploy dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS)- a key technology that will allow operators to use the same spectrum for 4G LTE and 5G on a demand-generated and automatic basis, instead of an entire generation operating on a whole piece of spectrum.
The sought-after technology is only available on a handful of devices on AT&T’s network in North Texas, but the company will continue to push out this technology across the country as they expand their 5G markets. An AT&T spokesperson told SDxCentral, “DSS plays an important role in our journey to nationwide 5G, which we expect to hit this summer.”
AT&T’s 5G network roll out has been hindered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but is still moving full-steam ahead to have 5G availability nationwide by the end of summer. AT&T’s 5G network covers about 120 million people on the 850 MHz spectrum.
“The timing is informed by where we have markets with higher loads on LTE, which would have a great impact of carving for 5G,” the spokesperson explained. “In situations where this would be the case, we will use DSS to balance traffic between 4G and 5G.”
Igal Elbaz, AT&T’s SVP of wireless technology penned in a blog post, “The performance of DSS will depend in large part on how frequently traffic demand changes and the granularity of the resource allocations.”
Elbaz continued, “DSS is an important stepping stone on our path to nationwide 5G. The software-based technology allows us to bypass the process of refarming spectrum in the near term, which ultimately means a smoother transition and expedited 5G adoption.”
AT&T has been tight-lipped on which spectrum bands will get DSS in the first rollout, but did say that the DSS technology isn’t limited to just one band and will be used across different parts of their entire network.
T-Mobile pushed out its nationwide 5G network on the 600 MHz spectrum at the end of 2019 without using DSS. That’s not to say that they won’t use the technology, but they haven’t said when they will. Other providers, like AT&T and Verizon, are going to rely heavily on DSS for their 5G networks, especially if they want to have a nationwide 5G footprint by the end of 2020.
DSS is most essential for Verizon’s 5G strategy since their goal is to have 5G service available in 60 cities before the end of the year, and DSS is essential for this to happen.
Other 5G players like Ericsson rolled out their DSS technology in February and Nokia in April. Though, Nokia said they don’t expect DSS to deliver a meaningful performance on a standalone 5G network until 2021. AT&T has stayed mum on the vendors it’s working with for its DSS deployment.