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Sharing for the

best performance
Stay ahead of the game with
Ericsson Spectrum Sharing
2 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance


5G promises an immersive extravaganza.

With 5G networks going live and consumers With Ericsson Spectrum Sharing
getting their hands on new 5G devices, (ESS), operators can run LTE and NR
user expectations are high. These users will simultaneously on the same carrier
not only expect excellent performance from frequencies and base station hardware.
their smartphones and other devices when Legacy LTE devices will experience a
in city centers; they will also expect improved traditional LTE cell while NR devices
performance levels in suburban areas, experience a 5G NR cell. The ESS solution
at venues and when on the move. assigns the time-frequency resources
Communications service providers need instantaneously at a millisecond level to the
to make the best use of their spectrum devices that need them – irrespective of
assets and utilize each band’s performance which radio technology they use.
characteristics to support their business
strategies, while maintaining coexistence
between all technologies deployed in
the network (illustrated in Figure 1).
The majority of new frequency bands
allocated to 5G are in mid- and high-bands.
To enable cost-efficient, wide-area
New Radio (NR) coverage and improve
mid- and high-band spectrum utilization,
it is necessary to also operate NR in lower
frequency bands. However, most operators
today have long term evolution (LTE)
technology in those lower bands. Entirely
re-farming carriers from LTE to NR is not
currently feasible due to the high penetration
of existing LTE devices and the high traffic
volume that they generate. 5G makes the previously impossible possible

Figure 1: Harvesting capacity in all bands 2G 3G 4G 5G




(Sub 1GHz)

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022

3 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance

The challenge

5G deployment steps can be streamlined with ESS.

New 5G spectrum is mainly found in existing 4G Evolved Packet Core (EPC) Existing 4G spectrum will smoothly migrate
mid- and high-bands. In high-bands, networks through a software update for to 5G over time, minimizing the impact on
also known as millimeter-wave frequencies, NSA support. In the second step, 5G-wide 4G as 5G is introduced in the same band.
with extremely wide bands, operators will coverage is reached using a lower band, Functions for smooth spectrum migration
achieve 5G’s ultra-high peak rates and low as it is more cost-efficient (requiring fewer and combinations (bands and
latency. This will create new capacity and sites) and provides blanket 5G coverage technologies) will be crucial for the
throughput levels for mobile broadband, needed for NR standalone (SA) operation. planned network evolution.
especially as a way of offloading Many operators do not have free spectrum
congested 4G networks (and for new available on those bands. ESS software
special use cases). But there is also broad allows dynamic spectrum allocation to
interest in deploying 5G technology in new 4G and 5G on the same band, dependent
mid-bands (3.5–6GHz), an optimal on demand. 5G NR carrier aggregation (CA)
compromise between coverage, is used to aggregate the low- and
capacity and latency, as well as existing mid-bands to improve mid-band coverage
mid-bands (1.8–2.6GHz), to achieve wide and the overall cell performance. Here, we
5G coverage as rapidly as possible. also introduce SA with 5G Core as a new
The spectrum available to 5G varies from architecture option.
market to market, according to whether it is To further increase capacity or support
already in use, as well as the timing of lower latency cases, 5G is deployed on
auctions and licensing processes. high-bands at locations with these specific
Initial 5G deployments will mostly be requirements (stadiums and other hotspots).
non-standalone (NSA) with dual connectivity Finally, when 5G becomes mainstream, the
between LTE on low-bands and NR on ultimate goal is for all bands to carry 5G, and
mid-bands. Such solutions were available we can aggregate them to reach maximum
early and enable operators to reuse their performance and efficiency.

Figure 2: The 5G evolution path with ESS 2G and 3G 4G 5G 4G and 5G Dual connectivity Carrier aggregation

Baseline Introduce 5G +5G coverage +Capacity Ultimate

Dual connectivity NR carrier aggregation Introduce high-bands NR as mainstream
Spectrum sharing


Mid-bands (new)

Mid-bands (existing)

4 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance

Service providers can explore ways of maximizing

the new 5G spectrum’s value.

Most operators have acquired new However, with EN-DC, NR’s UL control Obviously, there would be significant
mid-band (primarily ~3.5GHz) and signaling (L1 HARQ feedback, L1 channel capacity loss if the LTE and NR device
high-band (mmWave) spectrum for 5G NR state information, L2 RLC feedback) cannot traffic load does not match the fixed
deployments. In an NSA deployment, be mapped to the low-band LTE carrier. spectrum split, which is most often the case.
they are using EN-DC1 mode, where the An NR carrier in a low frequency band At (typical) lower system load, it would
device camps on and connects via LTE and would permit using DL CA with the NR also reduce the end-to-end throughput
the network configures it with additional carriers in the higher mid-band. With CA, since devices could, at most, utilize half
NR serving cells. the low-band NR carrier may carry the UL the previously available spectrum.
While many operators could acquire control and data transmissions, thus ESS overcomes static allocation problems
a significant amount of such spectrum, extending coverage, so the new mid-band by giving the devices of both radio access
its propagation characteristics are inferior spectrum can be used for DL data technologies (RAT) access to the entire
to existing spectrum in low- and lower transmissions by up to another 3–7dB carrier bandwidth. This achieves superior
mid-band, from which the uplink (UL) (see Figure 3). system capacity, irrespective of the
limits coverage in particular. When using Most operators do not have spare instantaneous NR/LTE traffic mix.
the NR spectrum with existing LTE carriers carriers in the low-bands to deploy an At low- and medium-system load it boosts
via EN-DC, the network can schedule UL NR carrier. Entirely re-farming existing the per-device throughput significantly.
user data on LTE. This, in turn, extends LTE carriers to NR is not feasible due To quantify the net benefits of ESS over a
the region in which the NR spectrum can to legacy LTE terminals. An LTE carrier static allocation, system simulations were
be used efficiently for downlink (DL) data (e.g. 20MHz) could be split into an LTE performed for a frequency division duplex
transmissions by up to 9dB (see Figure 3). and NR carrier (e.g. 10MHz each). (FDD) network with 2x20MHz spectrum at
800MHz, operating in a rural environment
with a 1.7km inter-site distance.

Figure 3: Extending new spectrum coverage by NR CA with shared low-band spectrum

NR on mid-band TDD

UL data UL control

NR/LTE on FDD with ESS

SA NR coverage baseline NSA NR dual connectivity Inter-band NR CA

(NR TDD PCell on mid-band) up to 9dB up to 7dB

EN-DC: EUTRA-NR dual connectivity, also known as non-standalone (NSA) or Option 3
5 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance

Figure 4 shows the cumulative Figure 4: ESS end-to-end performance and system LTE only
distribution functions (CDF) of the capacity compared to static carrier allocation ESS 10% NR
end-to-end throughput observed by an Static spectrum allocation 10% NR
LTE and NR device at a total system load ESS 50% NR
of 6MBit/s, which can be considered Static spectrum allocation 50% NR
medium in this scenario.
The blue line is the baseline where only
LTE devices use the entire 20MHz carrier
as an LTE cell. When splitting the carrier
into two 10MHz carriers for LTE and NR
respectively, and assuming that initially
90 percent of the device population 80
still uses LTE, the green CDF shows a
significant drop in performance.
The 10MHz LTE carrier is basically
overloaded with the amount of traffic
previously served on 20MHz. Compared to
CDF (percent)

that, a 20MHz ESS carrier (orange)

performs almost as well as the original
20MHz LTE cell. One might have expected
a more significant loss in performance due 40
to the additional NR control signals.
However, that overhead is partly
compensated by the fact that the NR
devices use the carrier more efficiently
than LTE devices. For example, more
accurate CSI-RS feedback allows for more
accurate beam management and link
adaptation in NR. Furthermore, typical NR
devices are expected to support 256QAM, 0
whereas legacy LTE devices are assumed 0 20 40 60 80 100
to only offer 64QAM. User throughput (Mbps)

The poor performance of the static carrier share of NR devices and even exceeds the
allocation might be expected, considering baseline performance on the non-shared

Game-changing that 90 percent of the devices run LTE and

experience a particularly high load on their
LTE carrier. This can also be explained by
the fact that NR devices use the carrier more
ESS outperforms a static spectrum half of the spectrum. If the share of NR efficiently than traditional LTE devices.
allocation at any system load. devices changes over time from 10 percent As explained earlier, NR-NR CA (with UL
to 50 percent, the performance with static on the low-band) enables offloading of more
spectrum allocation improves (gray), as the DL traffic to the new mid- and high-band
share of LTE and NR devices fits better to the carriers (Figure 3), which further increases
ratio by which the spectrum is split. However, overall system capacity and makes room
since the latter is static whereas the in the low-band carrier for those devices
instantaneous traffic mix varies dynamically, outside the mid-band coverage. This gain
it still performs a lot worse than ESS (purple). has not yet been modeled in the simulation
Furthermore, the per-device throughput results presented here. If considered, it
with ESS improves with an increasing would show even greater benefits for ESS.
6 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance

Rapid introduction of NR standalone and

the 5G core network is possible.

When an NR cell is connected to the new Offering the same coverage on 5G

5G core network, devices may camp on and (NR+5GC) and 4G (LTE+EPC) not only
connect directly to the NR cell and to the 5G allows new services to be introduced
core network, rather than through LTE. seamlessly across the country. It also
In other words, they may use NR-SA2 instead minimizes the need to perform inter-core
of EN-DC to unlock the NR interfaces network (CN) mobility, ensuring service
and new 5G core network’s full potential, continuity without complex inter-RAT and
including low control plane latency, the new inter-CN mobility scenarios.
inactive mode and network slicing. Moving from NSA to SA also allows a
It is, of course, desirable to introduce this transition from LTE-NR dual connectivity to
functionality and the services that it enables NR CA. With EN-DC (NSA) the device must
ubiquitously across the network and not maintain separate ULs for NR and LTE control
just in the (possibly limited) areas where signaling, and each UL must carry at least the
new spectrum is initially deployed. As most control signaling of that radio access.
operators do not have unused spectrum NR SA with pure NR CA avoids UL power
in low frequency bands to deploy NR, ESS sharing and power back-off, which limits the
enables rapid rollout of nationwide 5G NR coverage and UL throughput of EN-DC.
coverage. Even if an operator has spare Furthermore, unlike DC, CA does not require
spectrum in low-bands to deploy NR widely, flow control between the PDCP and RLC
it may be more commercially sound to layers, helping to reduce end-to-end latency.
use ESS, thereby making it accessible to Therefore, ESS is a key enabler for the
legacy LTE devices. transition from NSA to SA, and from 4G to 5G.

Figure 5: Network architecture migration with ESS

5G EPC + 5GC
Dual-mode core

Option 1 Option 1 Option 3 Option 1 Option 3 Option 2


NR SA: NR standalone, also known as Option 2
7 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance

There is no compromise on
5G capacity and performance.

To ensure that NR devices camping on Once the step from LTE-NR dual
5G attain at least the same performance connectivity to NR SA, with all of the
as LTE devices, they should have access to mentioned benefits, has been taken,
a similar amount of bandwidth. In areas there is no benefit in introducing the other
where no or only a little new spectrum architecture options. In particular, EN-DC
has been deployed for NR, an operator (device camping on and connecting
should consider deploying ESS on several to NR, configured with additional LTE
existing LTE carriers to enable NR CA serving cells via dual connectivity) would
across all of them. reintroduce the problems and bottlenecks
It is anticipated that ESS will impose a that were removed by introducing NR SA
static overhead compared to a clean LTE or with CA. Therefore, running ESS on several
NR cell. As explained in previous sections, existing LTE carriers helps to significantly
this is easily compensated by the benefits reduce the number of architecture options
of the superior NR link performance in and complexity in core and radio access
terms of DL and UL coverage and capacity networks (RAN).
that facilitates the new 5G spectrum.
The areas where capacity is an issue will
be those where operators deploy NR cells
on this new spectrum, thereby boosting
end-to-end performance and overall
system capacity.

Spectrum sharing provides better coverage in highly populated areas where it is most needed
8 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance

Ericsson Spectrum Sharing: the solution

ESS is our solution for achieving simple,

efficient and fast migration.

As highlighted earlier, migration from 4G/LTE especially for LTE narrowband IoT and This should be done in a way that
to 5G NR can be made simpler, more efficient Cat-M devices, due to the expected long minimizes the radio resource consumption
and faster by giving both technologies instant lifetime of such devices. Spectrum sharing of those control signals.
access to the same spectrum. ESS is our will be most efficient if previously deployed The network node (eNB or gNB) should
solution for achieving this. Its design was hardware can be reused and if the also have the means to rapidly allocate the
driven by the following requirements: feature can be activated remotely time/frequency resources for the actual
– It should be able to release as much of with a software update. user data transmission between LTE and
NR’s full potential as possible when LTE NR, depending on the number of users and
traffic intensity is low. Solution overview priority of their data packets.
– NR should have a minimum impact on 3GPP did not define one monolithic Figure 6 depicts the different
LTE latency, coverage and peak rate, at solution for spectrum sharing, but rather components of ESS, divided into 3GPP
least when NR traffic load is low. a set of tools. Some of them serve the tools and Ericsson innovations. In the
– All legacy LTE devices should be able to exclusive purpose of operating NR and following sections, we introduce 3GPP’s
access the network for the deployment LTE on a common carrier. Other NR toolbox for spectrum sharing and explain
to be commercially sound. This implies configurations, such as various PDCCH the innovative aspects of ESS.
it is not possible to change the mappings or demodulation reference signal Having an easy way to introduce ESS into
LTE specifications for NR/LTE (DMRS) positions, are vital for spectrum an existing network is just as important as
spectrum sharing. sharing but are also used in other contexts. its functionality. We show how ESS builds
A device that implements those on top of the Ericsson Radio System (ERS)
Any LTE/NR spectrum sharing solution components may claim to support and how it can be deployed as a software
must also consider LTE’s lifecycle to be spectrum sharing. However, a network package without any site visits or
future proof. As NR takes off, the number implementation must take additional steps tower climbing.
of NR devices and NR traffic intensity will – broadcast transmissions of LTE and NR
increase in the networks. Furthermore, (PSS, SSS, MIB, SIBs, TRS and CSI-RS)
LTE traffic will start to reduce in intensity must be positioned so they are supported
at some point. However, we expect many by a device operating according to that
users to only have devices supporting LTE RAT, but invisible to a device operating
in these networks for many years to come, according to the other technology.

Figure 6: The complete ESS solution

Ericsson Spectrum Sharing (ESS)

Tools in 3GPP Ericsson innovation

CRS rate matching of NR PDCCH Coordinated scheduling for 1ms spectrum sharing enabling FDM

NR 7.5kHz UL frequency shift Transmit NR common signals and signaling in the presence of LTE CRS

Avoid LTE synchronization signals, broadcast channel, and CSI-RS

Transmit the NR PDCCH

Ericsson Radio System (ERS) – enabling software activation of ESS in installed base
9 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance

3GPP standards outline the

possibilities of spectrum sharing.

An NR device configured with “LTE CRS In the UL, LTE applies a 7.5kHz (half a The 3GPP standard does not give
rate matching” is aware of the resource subcarrier) shift to all its UL transmissions more guidance (except the above) on
elements in the time-frequency grid that to mitigate local oscillator noise while how to configure the system to enable
carry LTE cell-specific reference signals maintaining low crest factor. An NR device efficient spectrum sharing for SA or NSA
(CRS) and it does not decode NR data on operating with FDD and its UL with 15kHz deployments. There are a few options
these resource elements. CRS rate numerology can be configured to apply for enabling efficient spectrum sharing
matching is available for the NR data the same shift. Without a 7.5kHz shift, for relevant use cases (illustrated in the
channel when using 15kHz subcarrier a frequency guard between LTE and following pages).
spacing with both FDD and time division NR UL is needed.
duplex (TDD). For higher subcarrier In 3GPP Release 16, PDSCH Type B
spacing, LTE CRS rate matching on scheduling (mini-slot) formats will be
resource element level is not feasible, as extended to lengths 9 and 10, with
signals transmitted with different DMRS patterns compatible with dynamic
numerologies are not orthogonal and cross- spectrum sharing, in that DMRS does not
subcarrier interference would occur overlap with LTE CRS. This will enable
between NR data and interleaved LTE efficient use of a two-symbol PDCCH in the
reference signals. Devices in idle mode do case of four-port LTE CRS transmission.
not support CRS rate matching, so a Release 16 also includes the possibility of
physical downlink shared channel (PDSCH), having up to three different, non-overlapping
which conveys messages related to CRS rate-matching patterns per NR carrier.
random-access procedure, for system This enables a wide NR carrier to share
information and paging, cannot use this spectrum with several narrower LTE carriers.
tool. Note that SSB is never rate matched.

5G enables HD voice and video calls in busy areas

10 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance

ESS is a unique inter-RAT solution,

including 1ms scheduling, frequency division
multiplexing and coordinated signaling.

Coordinated scheduling for 1ms ESS transmits the SSB in an LTE manner, the ESS gNB configures the device
spectrum sharing enabling FDM multicast-broadcast single-frequency with a set of rate matching patterns.
NR DL and UL data transmissions are kept network (MBSFN) subframe, which It uses a generic NR feature for the
separate from LTE data transmissions contains fewer LTE reference signals, purpose specified by 3GPP, to enable
via coordinated scheduling. ESS supports thereby avoiding collisions with the NR the future introduction of new RAT or
coordinated scheduling with instant spectrum SSB. ESS also uses MBSFN subframes to services overlapping the NR carrier.
sharing, which implies that scheduling convey other periodic NR signals, such as
decisions are taken every millisecond. system information. It benefits from those Transmitting the NR physical
To enable fast, fair and efficient periodic NR broadcast signals being sparse, control channels
dynamic NR and LTE scheduling, quality so that only a few MBSFN subframes The NR specification forbids collisions
measures of LTE and NR, as well as related are required. between LTE reference signals and
quality of service settings, are used when Other common DL messages, such as NR PDCCH. While the specification
scheduling data. Frequency division paging and signaling for the radio resource is very flexible where the PDCCH can
multiplexing (FDM) is allowed in a way control (RRC) connection setup, do not be transmitted, the mandatory device
that LTE and NR can share the resource follow a periodic pattern and, therefore, capability only requires control channel
grid in frequency to maximize resource should not be protected by static MBSFN support within the first three OFDM symbols
utilization. ESS enables instant spectrum subframes. However, since all these of a slot. To avoid collisions with LTE CRS,
sharing with minimum overhead. In a messages are relatively small, they can be the NR PDCCH is mapped to the third, or
typical setting, best-effort LTE competes protected at almost no additional cost second and third, OFDM symbol in a slot,
against best-effort NR, guaranteed bitrate (in terms of overhead) by using an depending on the LTE reference signal
(GBR) against GBR, signaling radio bearer appropriate channel code rate. configuration. NR devices that support
(SRB) against SRB, etc. However, service So far, we have discussed how NR is additional control channel symbols outside
providers may request policy inputs to configured in ESS to avoid impact from the first three symbols can be configured
protect LTE traffic or to emphasize NR LTE transmissions on NR. However, the with additional control channels.
throughput and these priorities will likely opposite also needs to be considered.
change during LTE’s lifecycle. Configured NR signals, such as TRS Deploying ESS in an operator
Scheduling processing is typically highly and CSI-RS, reuse MBSFN subframes network is highly TCO efficient
complex and challenging, even without introduced to protect some idle-mode Existing ERS baseband and radio units can
sharing. ESS benefits from the fact that transmissions, thereby avoiding be updated with software to support ESS
the same Digital Unit (DU) serves the collisions with LTE. without the need for additional hardware.
overlapping LTE and NR cells, including In this context, it should be noted Existing ERS baseband units serving LTE
user-plane processing and scheduling, that ESS itself does not add overhead. will then be enabled for mixed-mode,
enabling instant coordination for efficient The reference and control signals are serving LTE and NR at the same time.
resource utilization. just the ones that LTE and NR require. Since no addition of baseband is
One may consider unused symbols as a required, the majority of installations
Transmitting NR common signals and loss only if the MBSFN subframes are not can maintain the number of CPRI links
signaling alongside LTE CRS fully utilized by NR (either by SSB, SIB, when ESS is enabled.
During initial access, an NR device is CSI-RS or by data).
not aware whether the NR cell that it
accesses is shared with LTE or not. Avoiding LTE synchronization signals,
It may only assume the latter, so it will broadcast channel and CSI-RS
not apply any rate matching around As explained earlier, 3GPP specifies
LTE reference signals. the means to inform the device about
The first signal an NR device tries to the presence of LTE CRS, so that the
detect when entering a new cell is the NR network and device match the NR PDSCH
synchronization signal block (SSB). transmission around them. Besides CRS,
SSBs are one-shot transmissions, thus LTE transmits other periodic signals, such
vulnerable to puncturing. To guarantee as PSS, SSS, MIB and CSI-RS. To match
the necessary detection performance, the NR PDSCH around those in an optimal
11 Ericsson  |  Sharing for the best performance


ESS is unique and game-changing. This means increased coverage with fewer By leveraging existing low-band radio
With one simple software update, operators new sites in less time, infrastructure savings spectrum, operators can build continuous
can dynamically share spectrum between and, ultimately, the chance to be the first to coverage while avoiding excessive
technologies on the same band. It is a have nationwide coverage in an extremely mid-band resource consumption, laying
revolutionary new way of rolling out 5G, cost-efficient way. the foundations for a smooth introduction
reusing hardware, spectrum and sites, This significantly boosts performance of SA 5G.
while increasing new mid- and and end-user experience, so that it is not ESS will completely transform the way 5G
high-band investment value. limited to cities and specific locations, is introduced across the world. It will bring
Based on 3GPP-defined tools but such as outdoors, while minimizing 5G to everyone, everywhere, much faster.
taking them even further, ESS includes impact to them.
inimitable Ericsson innovations, such as ESS is easy and cost-effective, making
intelligent scheduler algorithms and smart the best possible use of existing radio
coordination of 4G/5G signaling, that spectrum and, simultaneously, avoiding
enable swift introduction of 5G within the painful process of re-farming
4G carriers and existing infrastructure. spectrum in use.

3GPP 3rd Generation Partnership Project L1 Layer one
5GC 5G Core network LTE Long term evolution
CA Carrier aggregation MIB Master information block
CDF Cumulative distribution function NR New Radio
CN Core network NSA Non-standalone
CRS Cell-specific reference signal PDCCH Physical downlink control channel
CSI Channel state information PDCP Packet data convergence protocol
CSI-RS Channel state information reference signal PDSCH Physical downlink shared channel
DL Downlink PSS A next-generation NodeB
DMRS Remodulation reference signal QAM Quadrature amplitude modulation
DSS Dynamic Spectrum Sharing RAN Radio access network

DU Digital unit RAT Radio access technology

ESS will completely transform the way 5G is
eNB E-UTRAN Node B RLC Radio link control introduced across the world
EN-DC E-UTRAN New Radio – dual connectivity RU Radio unit
EPC Evolved Packet Core SA Standalone
ERS Ericsson Radio System SIB System information block
ESS Ericsson Spectrum Sharing SIB1 System information block 1
Evolved Universal Mobile Telecommunications
EUTRA SRB Signaling radio bearer
System (UMTS) terrestrial radio access
FDD Frequency division duplex SSB Synchronization signal block
FDM Frequency division multiplex SSS A next-generation NodeB
Contact your local Sales team:
GBR Guaranteed bitrate TDD Time division duplex
gNB Next radio NodeB TRS Tracking reference signal en/contact/sales-inquiry
HARQ Hybrid automatic repeat request UL Uplink
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