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