Pivotal Tackles FWA 'Shadowing' as It Readies 5G Products

Dan Jones
10/25/2019

MWC Los Angeles -- Fixed wireless access technology specialist Pivotal Commware is expecting to ship its first commercial 5G equipment in December 2019.

CEO Brian Deutsch told Light Reading this week that its 28GHz Echo 5G subscriber unit will be available before the end of this year, and the company aims to get it priced at a unit cost of $200. Deutsch added that a 39GHz version will follow "a few months after that." A 24GHz version of the unit is in development.

The Pivotal Echo 5G subscriber unit.
The Pivotal Echo 5G subscriber unit.

These millimeter-wave (mmWave) production units look like more ordinary routers or repeaters than earlier test units from the company. CEO Deutsch showed off the Echo 5G unit's capabilities by sending downloads at speeds of over a 1 Gbit/s.

'This is the real 5G,' says CEO Deutsch, about the gigabit-plus downloads over the Echo 5G unit in action.
"This is the real 5G," says CEO Deutsch, about the gigabit-plus downloads over the Echo 5G unit in action.

Pivotal has been at the forefront of fixed wireless mmWave development. In February of this year, the company demonstrated subscriber units that are able to penetrate low energy (low-e) glass, something that conventional mmWave systems (and many other wireless transmission systems) cannot do. Pivotal executives point out, however, that breaking this barrier may not be as significant in promoting wireless penetration as originally anticipated, since around 85% of the market doesn't yet use low-e glass because of its high cost. For instance, the windows in the demo room of the Luxe Hotel, the site of this Wednesday's Pivotal tests, were not low-e glass.

But sending signals through low-e glass is just one challenge to be addressed: There are multiple hurdles for fixed wireless access (FWA) specialists to overcome. Deutsch noted that environmental shadowing affected mmWave performance in dense urban areas such as downtown LA. Pivotal solves that interference problem with repeaters: Here in LA this week, the company showed how its repeaters could shoot a 5G signal from an Ericsson gNodeB in the parking lot up one storey to the window-mounted subscriber unit in the hotel room.

Pivotal CEO Brian Deutsch shows off the company's repeater equipment that shoots 5G traffic from an Ericsson 28GHz eNodeB up to the Echo 5G node on the first floor of a hotel in downtown LA.
Pivotal CEO Brian Deutsch shows off the company's repeater equipment that shoots 5G traffic from an Ericsson 28GHz eNodeB up to the Echo 5G node on the first floor of a hotel in downtown LA.

Pivotal hasn't yet named any carrier customers for its products. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are using mmWave for some or all of their 5G deployments so far.

Compared to conventional cellular systems, mmWave offers gigabit download speeds, but at a greatly reduced range of 1,000 to 2,000 feet, particularly without repeaters.

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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