Verizon plans to use Samsung equipment end to end to support its fixed 5G deployments in Houston and Sacramento scheduled to occur this year. In an interview with Telecompetitor, Samsung head of marketing Derek Johnston detailed the equipment that will support the Verizon fixed 5G offering.
Some industry observers have questioned the extent of broader industry interest in fixed 5G, particularly after AT&T said it didn’t see the economics as promising. In the interview about Verizon fixed 5G and in a follow-up phone call, Johnston offered his take on that.
Fixed 5G Momentum
When Verizon announced its fixed 5G plans, the carrier noted that its initial 5G deployments would be of the fixed variety because fixed 5G standards would be completed sooner and would provide lessons that could later be applied to mobile 5G service. Current plans call for serving four markets with fixed 5G before year end. Verizon also has said it expects to make fixed 5G available to as many as 30 million households outside its traditional local service footprint.
The equipment that Verizon will deploy will support fixed service at 28 GHz, Johnston said.
The “next logical band” where Samsung expects to offer equipment for the U.S. market is the CBRS band at 3.5 GHz, Johnston said. Initially, at least, he sees it supporting mobile service – a comment that suggests wireless carriers anticipate the FCC ruling in their favor with regard to CBRS band plans.
“We’re having discussions with other U.S. operators and hope to be in a position to support the spectrum bands they’re looking at,” Johnston added.
He noted that most of the equipment used to support a 5G deployment — including a 5G virtualized core, virtual radio access network elements, nd access points/small cells — would be the same for a fixed or mobile deployment. The key differences required to support one type of service versus the other relate to the end user equipment, which would be routers in the case of fixed service or mobile devices such as smartphones for mobile service.
“Ultimately, 5G is viewed as more [of a] mobile” technology, Johnston commented. He noted, though, that the company has seen interest in fixed 5G from smaller network operators and from carriers globally, and that although the opportunity is smaller than for mobile service, it is substantial.
Verizon Fixed 5G Equipment
Samsung equipment that Verizon will use to support its fixed 5G deployment includes a 5G virtualized core, virtual radio access network elements, access points/small cells, and indoor and outdoor routers, Johnston explained.
In previous tests, Verizon achieved speeds above 1 Gbps over distances as great as 2,000 feet, even without line of sight, but the company may be more conservative in real world deployments.
“On average we have radios 200 to 500 feet away from the source,” said Johnston.
Johnston declined to say how many customers could be served from a single access point or what speeds he expects to see Verizon offer for the commercial launch.
He added, though, that in trials a single radio was able to support multiple residences in a 15-story building. The equipment, he said, “has the capacity to cover a great deal [of customers] with a single radio.”
In initial trials, Verizon used a “two-box solution” from Samsung that used separate radio heads and baseband equipment. But components were miniaturized for the equipment that will be commercially deployed. That equipment will use a single box weighting about 20 pounds that “can be easily mounted and unobtrusive” and which can be deployed on lamp posts, utility poles, sides of buildings and in other readily available locations, Johnston said.
Whither Fixed 5G?
How widely fixed 5G is used will depend on a variety of factors. Traditionally fixed wireless has been deployed in rural areas but operation in high-frequency bands such as the 28 GHz band that Verizon is using won’t be practical for most rural applications because of its relatively limited range.
“As you go to lower bands, you [can cover] further distances,” Johnston explained. 5G fixed wireless, he said, “would make a lot of sense in the right rural environment and the right spectrum allocation.”
Samsung made several advances in developing its 5G technology that enhance fixed wireless operation, Johnston noted. He pointed to the use of beam forming to obtain “a broader and more effective connection” that supports connectivity even when there is not a clear line of sight between the location served and the access point.
It will be interesting to see if traditional fixed wireless equipment manufacturers will incorporate some of those advancements to enhance their own offerings, even if those offerings are not based on 5G standards.