In a video interview, 5G Technology World speaks with Qualcomm’s Mohammed Al Khairy on how the company worked with Ericsson and US Cellular to reach that distance.
In 1877, Alexander Graham Bell ran a 3-mile (5 km) wire from his lab in downtown Boston to the home of Charles Williams Jr. in Somerville, Mass. The Charles Williams House, which still stands, became the first house in the U.S. with a telephone. In 2020, Qualcomm, Ericsson, and U.S. Cellular reached another 5 km milestone, that being a mmWave wireless connection.
Such a distance could help bring fixed wireless access (FWA) internet to homes, businesses, and schools in underserved areas, be they urban, suburban, or rural. The cost of running fiber to rural or low-income areas is a matter of return on investment. Service providers may currently not see enough return on investment to run fiber to such places. To learn more about the announcement, 5G Technology World interviewed Mohammed Al Khairy, staff manager, product marketing at Qualcomm (see above video). Al Khairy stressed that the announced data rate of 100 Mbps is “barely scratching the surface.” Al Khairy expects those numbers to increase further. Figure 1 shows a map of the test sites.
The mmWave technology being deployed for 5G mobile communications, with data rates comparable to those of fiber, offers the possibility to lower deployment costs. Unfortunately, mmWave suffer from short range. The three companies announced an installation in Janesville, Wisconsin that delivers download speeds comparable to cable-modem service over 5 km.
Because the connection is fixed rather than mobile, problems such as battery life and transmit power in the customer premises equipment (CPE) don’t exist. Plus, the user can install an outdoor antenna, with, say 64 beam-steering elements. Figure 2 shows three possible antenna locations.
“For an outdoor unit,” explained Al Khairy, “you would have an antenna that connects to the 5G and an indoor unit that provides Wi-Fi. For full indoor installations, a single unit would connect to 5G and to Wi-Fi.”
In this test, the CPE used a Qualcomm QTM527 mmWave antenna module and a Snapdragon X55 5G modem. “The QTM527 is specifically designed for CPE,” said Al Khairy. “That’s power class 1.” As the tests show, it can achieve distances not possible with mobile phones because of its greater power and its support for up to 46 antenna elements.
With regards to backhaul. The cells needed to provide FWA can connect over a wireless link. With wireless, installing fiber to every cell isn’t required. Even so, cells still require power, which unlike fiber, need not run underground and might be available nearby.