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Optical/IP Networks

Nextlink sizes up gigabit speeds over fixed wireless

Nextlink Internet, a fixed wireless access (FWA) provider that counts Cable One among its backers, is preparing to offer 1-Gig speeds after completing a successful field trial that shipped data over the 6GHz spectrum band.

Nextlink said the trial, based on an FCC experimental license, achieved data throughputs in excess of 1Gbit/s downstream and 500Mbit/s upstream to each subscriber module "under a full load" utilizing a 160MHz channel at a distance of two miles. The trial was powered by Cambium Networks access points outfitted with Qualcomm silicon.

Nextlink said it has big plans for the use of the 6GHz band, intending to offer gigabit-level services sometime in 2022 across a fixed wireless footprint that covers parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. The company, which today offers a mix of uncapped FWA tiers up to 500 Mbit/s, plans to make gigabit-level services available using its fixed wireless infrastructure to its existing base as well as in new deployments in rural areas coming by way of government subsidy programs.

"Upon full commercial deployment later this year, we look forward to rolling out gigabit speed plans in the entirety of our existing fixed wireless service network plus our prospective network expansion for the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program," Bill Baker, Nextlink's founder and CEO, said in a statement. "Ultimately, this expansion of gigabit fixed wireless will cover over four million households and businesses."

"The promise of 6GHz enabling gigabit speeds over wireless is real – and wireless enables Nextlink to roll out gigabit speeds faster that we can with fiber," added Claude Aiken, the former president and CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), who recently joined Nextlink as chief strategy officer. "We eagerly await the FCC's approval of the automated frequency coordination so that we can begin deploying this across our footprint."

Automated frequency coordination (AFC) aims to mitigate interference in the band and enable 6GHz devices to run at higher transmit powers, allowing for operation both indoors and outdoors. That has come about amid concerns from incumbent users, such as AT&T, that existing operations could be affected by unlicensed newcomers to the band, including Wi-Fi.

Nextlink hasn't announced any pricing or packaging for gigabit-class services. But company CTO Cameron Kilton noted in the release that Nextlink identified inefficiencies in testing scenarios, indicating that commercial deployments could deliver even faster throughputs on the 6GHz band.

Nextlink, which already offers gigabit services over fiber, has ties to the cable industry. In 2020, Cable One invested in two wireless ISPs – Nextlink and Wisper Internet – to explore the use of alternative technologies to reach into less dense areas near its traditional wired footprint. Cable One nabbed a less than 10% stake in Nextlink and a 40% stake in Wisper.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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