Verizon’s 5G strategy will combine DSS with carrier aggregation, says LightShed

Verizon’s 5G strategy has been murky. We know that it’s deploying mmWave in dense urban areas, but it’s been unclear how the carrier will deliver 5G across broad swaths of the country. Today, analysts at LightShed Partners laid out a Verizon strategy that makes sense.

“The combination of DSS and carrier aggregation might be the best concoction since gin and tonic, as long as you are prepared for the hangover,” wrote LightShed analysts Walter Piecyk and Joe Galone in a blog.

When combined, these technologies will enable Verizon to activate the 5G indicator on new 5G enabled iPhones and deliver industry-leading 5G speeds across a broad coverage area, beating the other carriers, at least for a while. The hangover could come in 2021 when T-Mobile has integrated Sprint’s spectrum into its network, and Verizon and AT&T don’t have that huge spectrum boost.


Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg has touted the laurels of dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) for well over a year, repeatedly pointing to it as a key pillar of Verizon’s 5G strategy. With DSS, Verizon can use its existing 4G spectrum and flip back and forth between 4G and 5G. DSS does require New Radio (NR), which Verizon is in the process of deploying.

RELATED: Verizon sticks behind ambiguous 2020 DSS rollout plan

But analysts have pointed out that DSS doesn’t provide any additional spectrum, and download speeds will always be limited by the amount of spectrum allocated.

Carrier aggregation

In today’s blog, LightShed said it’s the combination of DSS and carrier aggregation that will enable Verizon’s broad 5G network coverage

The analysts also did everyone a favor and clearly defined “carrier aggregation,” a phrase that makes it sound as if carriers are getting together to aggregate their spectrum.

“Carrier aggregation is a technology that enables wireless operators to combine both contiguous and non-contiguous spectrum blocks as well as spectrum blocks from other bands in order to increase the data speeds to the end user,” wrote the LightShed analysts. “Spectrum aggregation is probably a better brand.”

Carrier aggregation has been around since 3GPP Release 10. The technology was a primary component of AT&T’s much-maligned 5G E initiative. 3GPP Release 16, which is expected in June, will add support for 5G carrier aggregation.

“We expect Verizon to deploy DSS across multiple blocks of spectrum and then carrier aggregate those blocks to deliver materially faster speeds to the end user,” wrote the LightShed analysts. “We believe this combination will produce a robust 5G coverage layer that Verizon will put marketing dollars behind. We expect it to become their big 5G push.”