By Catherine Sbeglia
Last year, SureCall Founder & CEO Hongtao Zhan told RCR Wireless News that he believes that in five years, a staggering 80 per cent of millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G networks will be made up of signal amplifiers, such as repeaters or boosters. While that remains to be seen, an announcement from Verizon that it intends to use signal repeaters from SureCall, as well as FRTek, to increase its 5G Ultra Wideband — or mmWave — coverage does indicate expanding interest in these types of solutions.
“Since initially launching 5G service more than two years ago, we have more than doubled coverage in many of our initial mmWave markets by adding significantly more small cells,” said senior vice president of planning and technology for Verizon, Adam Koeppe. “Now, by deploying signal repeaters to bolster the existing network’s performance, we will continue to extend the service of our 5G Ultra Wideband network in a cost-effective, fast and efficient way, extending service to even more customers. It’s a great addition to our robust network design.”
Zhan cited a number of reasons to support his claim that boosters will feature more prominently than base stations in our future mmWave networks, such as economics, multi-carrier opportunities, policy challenges and indoor use cases.
Network repeaters amplify signals from nearby cell sites and retransmits them to previously underserved areas, reducing the need for base station buildouts and therefore, 5G’s footprint. Repeaters are especially beneficial in dense urban areas, which is already where most mmWave networks will be located because mmWave is also more beneficial in dense environments.
Further, Verizon said that the repeaters it is installing are “small, consume much less energy than a small cell, and do not require a fiber connection,” making them “very versatile, cost effective and easily installed in a variety of areas.”
Specifically, FRTek’s repeater technology PrimAer can provide both indoor and outdoor coverage and will allow Verizon to direct 5G mmWave service remotely using FRTek software that dynamically changes configurations to provide enhanced coverage on demand. SureCall’s contribution will be the Horizon, a patent-pending 5G mmWave network signal booster that it has the capability to run on solar with no connection to the power grid, making it even more versatile and cost effective.
Last May, Verizon partnered with Pivotal Commware to conduct trials in Dearborn, Michigan that improve 5G coverage and performance for residents and visitors by strategically placing intelligent repeaters to enhance and boost Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wide Band signal. When news of its partnership with Verizon was revealed, Pivotal Commware’s CEO Brian Deutsch explained that the company believes that the massive bandwidth available at mmWave frequencies is necessary to achieve the immersive ultra-wideband 5G experience that Verizon’s network promises.
“We’ve turned the perceived underpinning weaknesses of mmWave into strengths using innovations in electromagnetic science,” he commented. “Our holographic beamforming technology solves mmWave coverage challenges outdoors and counteracts reflection, penetration and shadowing loss indoors — to achieve the gigabit speeds end-users expect and to deliver cost, size, weight and performance that is orders of magnitude improvement over legacy technology like phased array and MIMO.”
At the time, Vice president of network planning for Verizon, Kevin Smith provided his own insights on the value of signal repeaters: “As we’ve known since our very early trials, high-band spectrum provides more limited coverage from macro cells. Introducing repeaters like the ones we are trialing from Pivotal will help us expand the footprint of our new 5G Ultra Wide Band network and provide another tool in the toolbox for robust network design.”