Verizon gears up for DSS launch next year

LOS ANGELES—Verizon plans to introduce dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology into its network next year from all three major infrastructure vendors, and large venues like Verizon’s 5G NFL stadium partners will also benefit.

While Ericsson is currently the only telecom equipment vendor that has announced a commercial spectrum sharing product, Heidi Hemmer, Verizon VP of technology, said the carrier will “do DSS next year with all three infrastructure vendors.” In addition to Ericsson, Verizon is using Nokia and Samsung for its 5G network gear.

Dynamic spectrum sharing, which allows spectrum to be used for both 4G and 5G at the same time, requires New Radio (NR). All of the major U.S. operators are currently deploying 5G in non-standalone (NSA) mode, which is anchored in a 4G LTE core and has enabled carriers to launch services more quickly. Hemmer confirmed that Verizon will go to SA mode in 2020, meaning a 5G NR core.

Separately, Samsung's Derek Johnston said a dynamic spectrum sharing product is still in testing and development stages. He did not provide a commercial timeline, but indicated it’s “on the horizon.” If Samsung has a commercial DSS product ready next year, he said it would likely be in the latter half of 2020. 

When asked if Verizon might launch DSS technology first only in markets where the carrier is using Ericsson gear, Hemmer did not rule it out, but said it’s something Verizon would still have to look at.

She noted all three network vendors have each been at different points on various technologies. For example, Samsung is the only supplier currently doing uplink on 5G, which Hemmer said Verizon has launched at the Gillette Stadium and is very useful. Once Ericsson and Nokia have the technology, Verizon will launch 5G uplink capabilities where it uses those vendors as well.

“But if it is something we think we can launch with one infrastructure vendor that might create an issue in the other areas [of the network] then we wouldn’t do it,” Hemmer said, though added she could not think of an example where that’s been the case. “We’re really making sure we get the best out of each of those infrastructure vendors.”

Verizon is already bringing 5G connectivity to 13 NFL stadiums, and Hemmer said the goal is to get all 32 stadiums on air by the end of 2021. Last week the carrier announced 5G plans for entertainment arenas including the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Chase Center in San Francisco, and Pepsi Center in Denver, with plans for Madison Square Garden, among others.

Once Verizon has DSS capabilities, the carrier plans to leverage the technology inside stadiums and entertainment arenas.

“[DSS] will be very important where we have large capacity needs, which would be venues, so while dynamic spectrum sharing will help improve all of our network it will be particularly important in places where you have lots and lots of people that are gathering.”

With DSS, Verizon can leverage all of the spectrum in its toolkit, be it 4G or 5G, and provide the experience the customer requires at that point in time, she explained. For example, if a fan watching the game wants to check email, a 5G connection isn’t needed. But if they want to use features like view real-time stats overlays, or unique camera angles, applications that require low-latency and more bandwidth, then the spectrum would be allocated to 5G use, with devices switching seamlessly for the consumer.

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Verizon has initially launched 5G service using millimeter wave spectrum, but has promised to cover 50% of the U.S. population with 5G by the end of next year.

Once Verizon gets to a 5G core, Hemmer said it will be very easy to roll out new functionality and features since most upgrades will be via software.

“When we get to a 5G core, we get to dynamic spectrum sharing ubiquitously, we’ll be able to do network slicing,” which will enable Verizon to provide different experiences, including to enterprises, by finely tuning application-specific bandwidth and latency needs.