In our 6/30 newsletter, we talked about the lack of mid-band spectrum availability in the US, and how that might create a problem for the US to have a broad-based coverage for 5G. Wall Street Journal recently conducted a field study and reach the same conclusion: current 5G in the US is fast, but the coverage is extremely spotty.
Recently we've noticed carriers in the US, especially Verizon and AT&T promoting the idea of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), claiming it'll be a game-changer. There are also hopes that this "new" technology could be the solution to the problem of lacking a mid-band spectrum faced by US carriers. We want to dig into these claims.
Before diving into DSS and 5G transition, we need to understand how the spectrum played a role in the past (x)G transitions?
First, carriers, equipment providers and other related parties identify available spectrum and launch new (x)G technologies on this new spectrum.
Second, accumulate enough new (x)G end devices and users, to a point the spectrum used in the (x-1)G services can be emptied and redeployed.
Third, migrate the new (x)G technology into that legacy spectrum, a process called re-farming.
With that background, let's take a look at what DSS does:
DSS enables new 5G support without having to empty the legacy spectrum first, allows carriers to share the same spectrum between 4G and 5G at the same time, i.e spectrum sharing.
The idea is that carriers will be able to use their current 4G LTE spectrum to smooth the transition to 5G, without new spectrum resources in the mid-band.
Does that change the game? We don’t think so.
The idea of sharing spectrums between 4G and 5G makes a lot of sense, and like sharing anything, it increases efficiency, the spectrums will be working all the time instead of standing idle.
But we believe the issue here is not spectrums not efficiently used within each carrier, but rather the lack of mid-band spectrum broadly. According to the US Wireless Communication Industry, current mid-band availability in the US is zero. To share something you need to have it available first.
We have no doubt DSS will make the transition smoother, but it is far from a game-changer as it does not address the core issue. DSS is not even new technology: Ericsson claimed all of their products shipped starting 2015 supporting the technology, and Huawei also worked with Vodafone to complete a DSS trial between 2G and 4G at the beginning of 2018 to address capacity issues in Turkey.
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