AT&T adds 5G to 28 new markets, expands DSS deployment

AT&T expanded its 5G rollout today, deploying its low-band flavor of 5G to 28 new markets in the U.S.

New markets include Austin, Dallas, Maui, Miami, Orlando, and Salt Lake City, among others. This brings the carrier’s 5G tally to 335 cities, covering 179 million people. AT&T plans to have nationwide 5G coverage by this summer.

Dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), which helps operators roll out 5G more quickly by sharing spectrum resources between LTE and 5G based on network demand, is live in parts of some of the markets. An AT&T spokesperson said DSS is currently live in parts of Texas and Florida, but was not more specific.

In addition to Austin and Dallas, AT&T expanded 5G in Texas to Navarro County, Victoria, and Wilson County. In the Sunshine State, AT&T’s 5G is also newly available in Melbourne and West Palm Beach.

“DSS is an important steppingstone on our path to nationwide 5G,” said Igal Elbaz, SVP of wireless and access technology at AT&T, in a statement. “We were the first U.S. carrier to deploy this technology in our network, and it’s now playing an important role as we work toward a nationwide 5G footprint this summer.”

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This comes after the carrier’s first limited deployment of DSS in parts of North Texas in early June. Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung are all 5G suppliers for AT&T, but the carrier hasn’t said which vendor’s DSS solution it’s using in the latest deployments . Ericsson’s DSS product is already deployed in commercial networks globally, and a Nokia spokesperson confirmed this month that the Finnish vendor still expects volume shipments of its DSS product in July.

“The performance of DSS will depend in large part on how frequently traffic demand changes and the granularity of the resource allocations,” wrote Elbaz in a June 5 post.

Competitor Verizon announced last week that it successfully completed field trials of DSS working with Ericsson and Nokia, though it’s also actively working with Samsung Networks on DSS. Tests were completed in a live network environment in Texas and Minnesota over low-band spectrum. Data sessions were effectively completed with LTE and 5G NR running at the same time, according to Verizon.  

RELATED: Verizon taps Ericsson, Nokia for DSS trials

To date, Verizon has only deployed its Ultra Wideband 5G service, which uses millimeter wave spectrum and is limited to small pockets of dense urban areas. However, it plans to launch nationwide 5G in 2020 with help from DSS, primarily using 850 MHz, but also PCS and AWS spectrum in some markets.  

Carriers are looking to DSS to help deliver on nationwide 5G coverage goals more quickly and use their spectrum holdings more efficiently. While the technology allows operators to deploy 5G without taking away channels for LTE, it doesn’t add extra capacity. Some analysts think carriers like AT&T and Verizon will need to be aggressive in upcoming mid-band spectrum auctions to catch-up to T-Mobile’s deep pool of mid-band that includes 2.5 GHz from its Sprint merger.

Speaking at an investor conference in June, Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications, said that AT&T is clearly interested in C-band spectrum, “because there’s no other spectrum that’s available with that kind of bandwidth.”

RELATED: AT&T’s McElfresh welcomes C-band, sidesteps Ligado question

Still, AT&T views its current spectrum position as solid. “Our low band and mid-band spectrum position is really strong…Timing for us may be a little bit less urgent,” McElfresh said at the time, but indicated C-band would be a good addition for 5G longer-term.  

T-Mobile, meanwhile, touts what it says is the nation’s largest low-band 5G network, using 600 MHz spectrum to cover more than 1 million square miles and around 6,000 cities and towns. The carrier also turned on its 5G “layer cake” approach in New York City in June, using a combination of both low-, mid-, and millimeter wave frequencies for 5G.