Earlier this year, T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray predicted a tough year for dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology, which his rivals expect to use as part of their 5G rollouts. Based on his answer about DSS on Wednesday’s earnings call, he still isn’t a big fan.
DSS allows operators to deliver both LTE and 5G on the same radio without having to dedicate spectrum to one particular technology. Verizon has indicated the technology is key to its strategy for rolling out broader, low-band 5G coverage in 2020 using its existing spectrum.
In February, Ray said one of the major network equipment vendors was “very late” on delivering DSS capability. He didn’t name the vendor, but Ericsson has been out in front with DSS, and T-Mobile’s two main infrastructure vendors are Ericsson and Nokia, making Nokia the prime suspect. (Last month, Nokia said DSS volume shipments are expected by July, in line with the availability of DSS-capable mobile devices.)
“I was very clear on that call that one vendor is trailing and they’re still kind of trailing,” Ray said when asked about DSS on Wednesday’s earnings call. The bottom line, however, is T-Mobile doesn’t need DSS for its nationwide 5G network.
The “un-carrier” already has a nationwide footprint using 600 MHz spectrum. It’s growing at a “tremendous pace,” and that’s the way to build a 5G network rather than having to share the spectrum between LTE and 5G, according to Ray.
“Our nationwide footprint is there already,” he added. That said, “we will deploy the technology, but it’s still bumpy.”
Since Ray’s initial comments, executives at both Verizon and AT&T indicated they were not seeing the same types of problem. In fact, Verizon executives told Wells Fargo Securities analysts that Verizon “strongly” disagreed with T-Mobile on DSS readiness. During its earnings call last month, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said DSS tests were going “very well.”