Boosting 5G coverage in the near to mid term
“Dynamic Spectrum Sharing is a great way to boost 5G coverage and speed to market in the early stages of a network. In the early days of a technology rollout, the number of users in the network is small. It is estimated that in 2020, 5G traffic will constitute just 5 per cent of the total traffic, which means that investing heavily in 5G network infrastructure in the early days of technology rollout isn’t cost effective. Determining where to deploy initial 5G sites for maximum return on investment is also tricky when the users are sparsely distributed. DSS allows operators to widely deploy 5G on the same network infrastructure and spectrum as 4G via only a software upgrade. As the availability of 5G services grow, user demand will also grow. Operators can then make further investments in dedicated 5G infrastructure.”
Reducing the financial burden of 5G
“Based on the assumption that the installed 4G radios are ‘5G ready’ and can be upgraded via software (something which most vendors have supported since 2015), an operator could activate 5G, using Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, without acquiring new spectrum, or undertaking any of the time-consuming and costly site works that would typically be required.
“This allows operators to provide the new low latency, high speed 5G services without incurring the high initial costs and time delays of a typical network deployment. The network will then allocate 4G or 5G capacity based on demand on a per-millisecond basis, effectively supporting both technologies on the same infrastructure.”
Bridging the spectrum availability gap
“As a tool to reduce time-to-market of 5G, DSS is almost universally beneficial. It will however be especially beneficial where operators have been unable to secure dedicated 5G spectrum or spectrum auctions have been delayed. It will also be useful for operators who have only managed to obtain 5G spectrum in the mmWave bands.
“Delivering significant population coverage on only mmWave is very hard and very expensive. Operators in this situation could use DSS to effectively match their existing 4G coverage with 5G coverage. Ericsson has been the most active vendor in terms of promoting DSS and seems to have the most mature solution so operators with a large installed base of Ericsson ‘5G ready’ radios in their 4G network will be well placed to take advantage of the technology.”
Making the business case for Dynamic Spectrum Sharing in Africa
“By doing a software upgrade, operators in Africa can launch 5G without significant investments in new site infrastructure. The cost of launching in this manner makes the business case much more attractive. It also allows operators the freedom to ‘test the waters’ in marginal areas and if the uptake is below the necessary threshold after a period of time, the 5G service could effectively be decommissioned in these areas with little to no wasted equipment and site build costs.
Looking beyond Dynamic Spectrum Sharing
“Dynamic Spectrum Sharing is an interim solution and a lot of network operators around the world will enable DSS in their networks in 2020 to provide 5G coverage. Ericsson estimates that 80 per cent of the 5G networks it supports will use DSS for broad 5G coverage in 2020. As the availability of 5G devices and services grows in 2021 and consumers start to understand the value of 5G services, 5G traffic will ramp up. Operators will then have to add additional infrastructure and spectrum to meet the increase in demand. There will likely be a few outliers where DSS as a long-term solution makes sense (small rural villages as one example) but for the most part it will be a temporary solution to achieve broad coverage quickly.
“Over the next 12 to 18 months, I think operators will continue deploying 5G and looking for ways to monetise it. The hype of 5G has now passed and it is time to widely deploy the technology and focus on maximising return on investment. A few months ago I would have said towards the end of this period we would start to see significantly more operators deploying a 5G core and moving from a non-standalone deployment of 5G to a standalone one. Covid-19, I think, will have pushed that timeline out and 5G deployments will slow for the most part in the next 6-9 months. There is also a possibility that new opportunities arise due to the situation. With more remote working likely to become the norm, demand for services that enable that should see strong growth. It may even be that demand for 5G services beyond Enhanced Mobile Broadband (EMBB), such as VR type use cases, increase due to the current situation and end up being brought to market sooner than they otherwise would have.”