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Verizon to Launch Fixed Wireless ‘5G’ at 28 GHz; Are They Shooting Too High?

February 23, 2017

By J. Sharpe Smith

Senior Editor, AGL eDigest

J. Sharpe SmithVerizon has announced its plans a large fixed “5G” pilot in the 28 GHz band providing high-speed, low-latency pre-commercial services to select customers in 11 markets. But some in the industry wonder if it is the right service for those frequencies.

Jaime Fink, co-founder of Mimosa Networks, said that the 28 GHz band may not be viable for fixed wireless 5G. In contrast with Verizon, Mimosa’s fixed wireless technology resides in the spectrum below 6 GHz.

“Delivering mmWave broadband connectivity in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) environments, such as suburban and urban areas, is extremely problematic over the last quarter mile, because of foliage and solid constructions,” he said. “Rather than using the challenging, unproven mmWave channels for 5G, the industry should use the sub-6 GHz spectrum bands, which have incredible propagation characteristics through foliage and construction materials.”

Verizon’s trial will use several hundred cell sites that cover several thousand customer locations. Beginning in the first half of 2017, the pilot will take place in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The carrier described the pilot as an important step in commercializing gigabit broadband service to homes and offices, which will leverage its 5G Technology Forum (5GTF) partners including Ericsson and Samsung.

The Verizon announcement was actually the second “5G” fixed wireless service story that broke this week. Mimosa Networks said it had launched the “first commercially available 5G fixed wireless internet” architectures. Known as the urban MicroPoP and rural GigaPoP, the systems feature Mimosa’s Spectrum Reuse Synchronization (SRS) technology, according to the company.

Verizon is preparing for 5G by attempting to establish the three pillars of the ultra-high speed broadband technology: software defined networking (SDN), self-optimizing networking (SON) and network functions virtualization (NFV), according to Jake MacLeod of Gray Beards Consulting. And they have their work cut out for them.

“Verizon is experimenting, trying to ride this horse called NFV, which is a huge bucking bronco,” MacLeod said. “You learn through failure. It happens with every new generation of radio.” With that said, establishing wireless in the fixed environment is much simpler than in the mobile milieu, he added.

MacLeod said another important step for Verizon will be integrating next generation technology into its billing system, back office systems, provisioning, management, repair and installation.

AT&T, Nokia Streaming at 39 GHz

Nokia and AT&T are not intimidated by higher frequencies. In fact, they recently completed 39 GHz fixed wireless 5G tests with AT&T’s Internet TV streaming service, DIRECTV NOW. Nokia used its commercially available AirScale radio access platform for the tests.

Both the 39 GHz band and the 28 GHz band are particularly attractive due to the large bandwidth available; however, there is significantly more bandwidth available in the 39 GHz, which makes it a strong candidate to support 5G deployments, according to the company. Nokia began testing mmWave technology with AT&T in 2016. For its recent tests of DIRECTV NOW over 39 GHz, Nokia delivered a 5G radio access system, conducting the trial at the AT&T Labs facility in Middletown, New Jersey.

During his tenure as FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler called for a wide range of spectrum to be allocated for 5G, including 600 MHz band, known as low band; the AWS-3 and new Citizens Broadband Radio service in the 3.5 GHz band, known as mid-band; and high-band spectrum at 28 GHz, 39 GHz, 64-71 GHz, and 37 GHz band.