Nokia Bell Labs & Verizon Stretch Fixed 5G to the Home

Dan Jones
11/13/2017
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5G in the 'burbs? Don't bet your hedge on it. Leafy greens may not be a good diet for Verizon's planned fixed wireless service.

Nokia Bell Labs is working with Verizon Wireless on a window-mounted radio to help high-band 5G deliver wireless broadband to US homes, but mostly in urban environments. It won't help in areas where foliage can block the 28GHz signal.

Tod Sizer, VP of the Wireless Research Program at Nokia Bell Labs, told Light Reading at our 5G Transport & Networking Strategies event in New York Friday that the joint project aims to help the 28GHz signal to be better used in homes, apartments and other buildings.

"We can't change the laws of physics. Millimeter wave doesn't propagate well in buildings with concrete, or brick, walls, and covered in [low-e] glass windows," Sizer stated during a panel discussion. (Light Reading recently reported on millimeter wave's problems with glass -- see Could 5G Have Found Its Glass Ceiling?)

So, what the Bell Labs unit has been doing is to develop a 28GHz transciever that sits outside a user's window and connects wirelessly to a WiFi router inside the window, which then distributes the signal to other devices in the house or apartment. Verizon is hoping to offer 1-Gbit/s download with its fixed wireless 28GHz 5G service, which could support multiple video streaming devices and Internet-connected units in a household.

Sizer said the first unit they developed for Verizon used a 2.6GHz signal to connect the 28GHz radio to the indoor unit. This is so that user doesn't have to make a hole in the wall or window. The latest iteration uses an optical connection that Sizer said works better.

The aim, he said, is to create, "a unit that so simple to install that my history professor father can install it." This involves developing a way to show the users when the 5G radio is situated so that it gets the best, strongest connection. Much like an electronic instrument tuner, Sizer said that having a red-light/green-light system that shines green when the user hits the best connection might be easiest.

This doesn't mean that fixed 5G is going to become a way to offer fixed 5G across the entire country. Sizer thinks that it is suitable for cities and "dense suburban areas."

"The idea of this solving the rural problem is folly. There are too many trees," Sizer said.

This resonantes with what Light Reading heard from other conference attendees and a reader too: Foliage is a problem when it gets in the path of a 28GHz signal. So, if you want fixed 5G, you might want to start hacking down any topiary or trees that could impede your glorious gigabit experience. Perhaps Verizon should sell a chainsaw with its fixed 5G package?

Verizon hasn't yet revealed many results from its fixed 5G trials in 11 markets in the US yet. Although the company has asked for an extension on 28GHz testing license recently. CFO Matt Ellis has said the operator will reveal more details by the end of the year. (See Verizon Says Fixed 5G Will Happen in 2018, Less Clear on Mobile and Verizon Asks for Additional 6 Months for Fixed 5G Tests.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/15/2017 | 7:09:37 PM
Re: Roof mount
My assumption is that this is why Verizon has sold as many rural properties as it can.

The only thing is even with the loosened rules they are still the COLR.

seven

 

 
Duh!
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Duh!,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/15/2017 | 1:00:33 PM
Re: Roof mount
Verizon either has, or will have to, make some hard decisions about rural customers. Maintaining that copper plant is a losing proposition, but the business case for converged fiber access in those areas often is going to be weak. Tomorrow, the FCC is going to vote on an NPRM to loosen the rules for copper retirement. It will be adopted, probably 5-2. It's a long story, but the fact that your parents have cable gives VZ dispensation to shut down the regulated copper network. Plus they've signaled their intentions by turning down CAF money. OTOH, they may need to build out or buy fiber anyway, for LTE coverage and ultimately 5G, as well as any business customers and/or IOT plays. I wouldn't be surprised to see them offering a wireless solution.

As far as urban fixed wireless: everything is different in the high bands. Not only is there a LOT of bandwidth (475 MHz per channel at 28 GHz), but spatial reuse coefficients explode because of high directionality and beam steering. With massive MIMO, urban canyon multipath is their friend. I'm sure that they'll be able to handle mobile and fixed in the same 28 GHz band. 

-- Dan Grossman
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/15/2017 | 12:11:11 PM
Re: Roof mount
Herd the words, "there's just not a business case for it," several times yesterday! 
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/15/2017 | 12:10:06 PM
Re: Roof mount
My guess from the backhaul people are talking about is that they could perhaps be looking at 10 homes per small cell for good performance, up to 20 if they want to push it. This is pure back of the envelope stuff at the moment and, in the end, depends on the users in each household.
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/15/2017 | 11:21:46 AM
Re: Roof mount
I thought I should add, this is why I think this notion of new competition fixing things in Broadband Access is just nonsense.  It is really hard to justify an investment when there is good capability (not talking price yet) already.  If you are going into an area, you want a take rate the justifies the upfront capex and marketing campaigns.  If there is a significant shift starting in market share, the incumbent just lowers prices (unless they don't care).  At that lowered price point, the ROI on the CAPEX gets worse and worse.  The consumer does better, but the 2nd provider stops investing and the competition dies.  

I know of overbuilders who think they can get over 70% market share.  They are new.  I internally shake my head and do a facepalm.  Externally I smile and move on.

seven

 

 
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/15/2017 | 11:14:10 AM
Re: Roof mount
My parents are in a rural Verizon property about 1 hour north of Albany.  They live 10 miles outside what is nominally my hometown.  That town has 1100 people.  The closest city is Saratoga Springs which is just over 15 miles away.  That is not the most rural spot in Verizon, but is pretty typical of upstate NY where Verizon still has rural properties.

Of course, they have cable run right to their front door.  Verizon doesn't even have a dsl installation in the cabinet that is about 1/2 mile from their house.  So, I think Verizon has already lost the rural battle.  Urban Fixed Wireless is going to be a challenge as it will eat lots of spectrum that will want to be used by mobile if they decide to mass deploy it.  Fiber (actually any wireline medium) provides a new set of spectrum for every connection.  In GPON as deployed per Verizon, that is spectrum for every 32 homes.  Not sure that is going to fly as replaced by wireless.

seven

 

 
Duh!
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Duh!,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2017 | 7:28:25 PM
Re: Roof mount
"Real rural" covers a lot of topographies. Wireless systems that work really well in, say, Kansas may not be so happy in, say, the Appalachians.

More to the point, mm-wave systems are short-range -- maybe a quarter of a mile. Once the operator has built out fiber at half-mile intervals on a long country road with a few homes, they might as well go the rest of the way with fiber. That, or more likely, go to mid-band spectrum and lower data rates.

I think that mm-wave fixed 5G is a play for high-density urban areas and MDUs, where simple drop installation can be a big headache and multipath is their friend. That is, if they can consistently work around the low-e glass problem. Maybe there are other use cases, but I can't think of one.
bosco_pcs
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bosco_pcs,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2017 | 5:26:31 PM
Re: Roof mount
Some thoughts about the roof mounted variation for a "real rural area": can be any more explicit about a "real rural area." Perhaps it depends on one's thought of rural, in my mind I have Smallsville type. People there are pretty much DIY folks anyway. 

Obviously, that is a subset of the scenario.

Assuming my vision of being rural is wrong, the optical link in the urban area still requires calibration. So urban or rural makes no difference unless there is some self-guiding mechanism for the indoor and outdoor units for optimization purposes 

Perhaps it really hinges on the strength and flexibility of the optical link between the two. If so, maybe even the urban setting is also a problem if VZ is shooting for a DIY scenario in all settings. My point is that the leafy environment is solvable if the conceptual design is sound
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
11/14/2017 | 4:49:47 PM
Re: Roof mount
The big thing for Big Red is cutting costs on deployment versus FiOS, they really want a user installed unit if they can make it happen.
Duh!
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Duh!,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2017 | 4:05:01 PM
Re: Roof mount
That defeats the purpose. Rooftop isn't amenable to self-install.
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