5G user expectations are high - and rightly so!
As a keen observer of innovation, I had tuned into the 5G promise back when it was just a gentle purr, before the roar of industry excitement that we’re experiencing today.
There’s no denying the ‘need for speed’ in an ever-evolving data-hungry world and yet I struggled, as did many in my field, to understand how it could be effectively and cohesively delivered.
I witnessed many 5G data-rate demonstrations and saw the numbers firsthand, yet my doubts remained as to how the 5G promise could overcome the spectrum challenges it faced. In particular, how on earth were operators going to be able to roll the new technology out to their customers with the rapidity predicted?
Operators knew they would have to utilise new spectrums with extremely wide frequency bands to achieve the ultra-high peak rates and low latency required but time wasn’t on their side in terms of finding a solution that would allow for a rapid roll-out. Functions for smooth spectrum migration from 4G to 5G and combinations (bands and technologies) would be crucial for the planned network evolution.
With this in mind, attention was turned to deploying 5G in new mid-bands (3.5-6GHz) which offered a compromise between coverage, capacity and latency and would give operators the wide 5G coverage they sought more rapidly.
But still the challenges of a smooth roll-out remained.
These were challenges that Ericsson was well aware of and had set about to remedy with unparalleled dedication and a team committed to finding a solution that met the needs and expectations of their customers.
The technology is so intuitive that it would be easy to overlook the years of complex research and development which went into the product.
To enable cost-efficient, wide-area New Radio (NR) coverage and improve mid- and high-band spectrum utilisation, Ericsson understood it was necessary to also operate NR in lower frequency bands. However, most operators today have long term evolution (LTE) technology in those lower bands so re-farming carriers from LTE to NR would not be a workable option, due to the high penetration of existing LTE devices and the high traffic volume that they generate.
There needed to be a way to switch between both LTE and 5G NR coverage on existing 4G assets and it was on this premise that Ericsson Spectrum Sharing (ESS) was born.
They had developed a game-changer!
“Classically I’d need to re-farm,” Ericsson’s Paul Challoner, head of network product solutions in North America, explained. “But what ESS does is allow me to use an existing LTE band to share that band dynamically…to support them both on that same band.”
With Ericsson Spectrum Sharing (ESS), a Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) based solution, operators can run LTE and NR simultaneously on the same carrier frequencies and base station hardware. Legacy LTE devices will experience a traditional LTE cell while NR devices experience a 5G NR cell.
It’s a win, win situation for both technologies!
The missing piece of the puzzle
The ESS solution assigns the time-frequency resources instantaneously at a millisecond level to the devices that need them – irrespective of which radio technology they use.
Mattias Frenne, a principal researcher for Ericsson who worked on the solution explained:
“Dynamic Spectrum Sharing is a unique piece of Ericsson innovation and the piece in the puzzle which makes it easier for our customers to be first to market with nationwide 5G coverage through only a single software upgrade.
“It allows them to dynamically switch between both LTE and 5G NR coverage on existing 4G assets. In fact, the technology is so intuitive that it would be easy to overlook the years of complex research and development which went into the product. “
Frenne continued: “From the early stages of our research into 5G NR, when we began to map 5G transmissions to time-frequency resources, we created the possibility for holes in the 5G transmission grid, which could be used for 4G LTE transmissions.
“This means that, by simultaneously sharing frequency bands which are already available today, service providers can fire up 5G on existing LTE bands without actually shutting off LTE. This means that, as well as having the option to roll out 5G on existing Ericsson 4G hardware, operators can keep the LTE network up and running while starting 5G.
“This can truly make it easier for thousands of operators to transition to 5G in the coming years.”
From promise to practice
The recent jaw-droppingly successful trials carried out in Ericsson’s lab in Richardson, Texas, by Ericsson, Verizon and Qualcomm Technologies confirm that DSS is the way forward.
“As market demands for our services shift between 4G and 5G, we need to be able to shift our resources to efficiently meet those demands,” said Adam Koeppe, Senior Vice President of Network Planning for Verizon.
“Dynamic Spectrum Sharing will allow us to allocate those resources in real time so we use our current spectrum effectively while also providing our customers the precise experience they need.”
Ericsson have recently released a compelling new paper “Stay ahead of the game with Ericsson Spectrum Sharing.” It’s an eye-opening read, explaining how “communications service providers can make the best use of their spectrum assets, utilising each band’s performance characteristics to support their business strategy, while maintaining coexistence between all technologies in the network.”
Built upon the philosophy of giving in order to receive, Ericsson have succeeded in creating a 5G solution that is truly incredible - and it’s one that will no doubt benefit us all.
In what can sometimes be a shallow world, it seems that sharing really is caring!
The above post is sponsored as part of Ericsson’s Ambassador program.