Artemis will soon get the chance to prove its signal-bending, performance-enhancing LTE technology works as advertised with help from Dish Network, which will be the first to lease the startup spectrum to run its network in San Francisco.
Artemis said on Tuesday that Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), via its wholly owned subsidiary American H Block LLC, will lease certain H Block mobile spectrum in San Francisco to Artemis for up to two years to use for pCell deployments, pending Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval.
pCell is the brainchild of Artemis founder and CEO Steve Perlman, who was also the man behind OnLive, WebTV and QuickTime. It promises to give individual users fiber-like speeds by combining radio waves to create higher-power signals, or unshared personal cells, for every device in the vicinity. For more information on how pCell works, check out Light Reading's recent feature on the technology or Artemis's 100-page white paper detailing it. (See Meet the 5G Alternative: pCell and pCell Promises to Fix Spectrum Crunch Now.)
This announcement with Dish is a big deal for Artemis as it will provide the first commercial testing ground for pCell. Artemis has spent the past year in trials and labs, trying to prove the technology delivers 25 times better performance than LTE alone, but it's also had to deal with naysayers who think it's too good to be true. Artemis isn't ultimately aiming to be a wireless service provider itself, but it's using Dish and San Francisco to help it get over the credibility hump, which Perlman says is a big problem for it. (See Radio Revolutions on the Road to 5G.)
Perlman told Light Reading earlier this month that Artemis already has a trial pCell network up and running in San Francisco with antennas on 600 rooftops, locations where traditional cellular towers couldn't necessarily be installed. He said pCell deployments are much less expensive and easier to install -- albeit subject to the same leasing and backhaul requirements as small cells -- suggesting the technology could be up and running on Dish spectrum as soon as the companies are given the FCC nod.
Set-up for those wanting to try pCell in Dish's leased spectrum is fairly simple too. It works with existing LTE handsets with the addition of an Artemis SIM card. Users then select Artemis as their LTE service on the handset, and -- according to Perlman -- they will start using an LTE service with 35 times the spectral efficiency of a conventional LTE network, regardless of how crowded the area becomes. Artemis says that those users that go outside of San Francisco will have the option of subscribing to roaming cellular services provided by an MVNO.
"pCell works at whatever band you like. Unlike radios that are typically sold by infrastructure providers, the pCell radios are frequency agile, so work on any band, which is great for operators adding new spectrum," Perlman said. It could also explain why Dish is interested, as it's been shopping for a use for its sizeable wireless spectrum holdings for some time. (See T-Mobile: Google & Dish Could Be 'Interesting' Partners and Son: Dish Could Be Sprint's Great Ally.)
The startup also announced today that it is making the Artemis Hub available for venue and indoor trials. The Hub provides pCell service over "32 distributed antennas, delivering up to 1.5 Gbit/s in shared spectrum to off-the-shelf LTE devices, with frequency agility from 600 MHz to 6 GHz, enabling pCell operation in any mobile band." Radio heads for outdoor use will be available later this year.
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading