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What Is DSS And Why Is T-Mobile Worried About It?

The telecom world is abuzz with news and rumours surrounding the new 5G network. Most Americans have at least heard the term “5G” even though many still can’t articulate what exactly 5G does. What many people have not heard of is “DSS”, which is unfortunate because DSS is an integral step that telecom providers must take before they can fully embrace 5G networks. Let’s take a closer look at what DSS is and why T-Mobile is worried about it.

DSS stands for dynamic spectrum sharing. This technology allows operators to deliver both LTE and 5G via the same radio, without dedicating spectrum to one of those technologies over the other. This is crucial for companies who may not have enough spectrum available to dedicate to each type of network.

Verizon has made it clear that DSS technology is crucial to their 2020 plans. The company plans on using their existing spectrum to continue to run their LTE network while rolling out their low-band 5G coverage. Unfortunately, if DSS does not work as advertised Verizon may find itself in a tough spot.

T-Mobile’s Neville Ray spoke at length about DSS on his company’s fourth quarter earnings call. “We’re seeing as we learn more, that as you deploy DSS it kind of eats away on the net capacity of the shared radio,” Ray said. “If you rush into that now, some of the early rollouts and work arounds…that we’ve seen are pretty corrosive and would suck up capacity just by rolling out the feature.”

T-Mobile has been an early adopter of DSS technology, which is why they are beginning to see the crack’s in DSS’ offerings earlier than most. To the company’s credit, T-Mobile has already rolled out its low-band 5G network throughout most of the United States. That 600 Mhz network will serve as the base layer of sorts that T-Mobile will build out on as it begins to offer the faster high-band 5G service in the near future.

Verizon has made the ambitious promise of offering its own 5G service to half of the U.S. population by the end of 2020. That plan is predicated on its ability to use DSS technology in it’s low-band 5G roll out. If it can’t, Verizon is going to find itself lacking the spectrum needed to back up their promises.

For their part, Verizon leadership remains confident. FierceWireless spoke with Kevin King, director of communications at Verizon, about this DSS issue. “‘We’re confident in our 5G strategy that we have, although it sounds like maybe T-Mobile is not confident in their 5G strategy anymore,’ said King. ‘They must really be panicking about the fact that this nationwide 5G network that they’ve rolled out doesn’t perform as well as 4G networks,’ including in some cases against T-Mobile’s own 4G network.”

The great carrier battle for 5G is well underway. Those who watched the Super Bowl this year probably saw Verizon’s add touting that their 4G network is faster than T-Mobile’s 5G network, and that may be true. The true high-band 5G networks are only available in incredibly limited areas right now. We may not see a full scale roll out of those networks for another few years. Until then, major carriers are going to be doing everything they can to be the first to offer high-speed network access. DSS could be a crucial component of those offerings, if someone can get it to work as advertised. Time will tell.


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