Pivotal Commware's CEO says he expects the firm's Echo 5G repeaters to appear live in the field for fixed wireless services in the US early next year.
"Looks like its going to be late January or February, we'll start hanging them," CEO Brian Deutsch told Light Reading on Friday. The very first 5G services are expected to start in the second half of 2018, at the earliest. (See 5G in the USA: Where We at With Mobile?)
The Echo, attached to a user's glass window, can be used to help a 5G 28GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) signal penetrate inside buildings. As Light Reading has previously reported, glass and other building materials can be serious impediments to mmWave signals. (See Could 5G Have Found Its Glass Ceiling?)
Deutsch says that the first units in the field will not be fully commercial initially. "I would hope to be in some of these rollouts, probably in the first quarter," Deutsch said.
Pivotal uses a variant of beamforming, called "holographic beamforming." The startup says this technique delivers more range than traditional multiple antenna arrays (MIMO), while being cheaper to make than standard MIMO units.
"Like several narrow, high-intensity spotlights illuminating discrete objects in a theater, beamforming antennas can focus their radiated energy on separate targets without illuminating adjacent users," Pivotal's CTO Eric Black writes in an essay on MIMO and beamforming.
The Echo has been tested at 1.3 Gbit/s at up to 1,640 feet from the basestation, using four 100MHz 28GHz channels, in Kirkland, Wash. The company is now applying for a one-year license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to show off its 28GHz Echo units and 39Hz Tarus units. Deutsch says that the company wants to show the units to both carriers and 5G equipment makers.
Deutsch says the company has been doing "some field trials" already. He wouldn't name names, but expects "great things" with all the major US wireless carriers. "Even Sprint and T-Mobile," he says.
The startup is also testing the Echo unit as an outdoor repeater, used to extend the range of basestations, or when "shooting the signal down a long block" to extend the signal into a cul-de-sac.
Deutsch says the small Echo repeaters can be mounted to utility poles using a single truck roll with a "30-watt power" supply. "Not much," notes the CEO, who says it should cost about $1,000 a pole to install.
Bellevue, Wash.-based Pivotal was started in 2016. The company has so far raised $17 million to develop its beamforming antennas.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading