FWA field test to trial 60GHz band for tier-1 service providers

15 September 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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A field test of Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) technology is being planned, using the 60GHz band for outdoor fixed wireless broadband access for tier-1 service providers.

Conducted by fabless semiconductor vendor Pharrowtech, Telent, and wireless equipment maker Unitron, the consortium is supported by the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO).

Next year, the cohort will test the potential of next generation broadband via millimetre-wave (mmWave) FWA using Pharrowtech's carrier-grade 60GHz mmWave solution – the 60GHz band is globally available, un-licensed spectrum. This is based on CMOS process technology and enables high speed internet in urban, suburban and rural locations alike, while also being cost-effective to deploy.

Pharrowtech CEO and co-founder, Wim van Thillo, said: “We are extremely pleased that VLAIO is supporting us to roll out our technology with these leading partners. This field trial perfectly represents the massive business opportunity that mmWave FWA offers. Even in areas as densely populated as Belgium, operators struggle to deploy gigabit internet services fast enough. This project will establish our technology as a key complement to fibre for fast and economical high-speed internet deployments everywhere.”

The test has secured public funding in the form of a grant from VLAIO. Although the value of the grant has not yet been disclosed, the funds will be used to support preparation and execution for a Telenet field trial of Pharrowtech’s mmWave RFIC technology using Unitron’s network elements, as well as beamforming and mesh control software developed by imec’s research laboratories.

Pharrowtech said the award of the grant "demonstrates the growing recognition for Pharrowtech’s rapid progress towards full commercialisation of its chip and phased array antenna technology, and is an important step in accelerating the deployment of cost effective, high speed FWA broadband".

Telenet, director network and infrastructure, Luk Bruynseels, said: “For Telenet it is paramount to keep on investing in innovative ways to deliver digital services to our customers. We have multiple use cases in scope where FWA technology brings opportunities and important benefits by reducing installation and roll-out costs. This VLAIO project is a great opportunity for Telenet to gather and share all required knowledge and expertise within the consortium to ensure we meet the expected outcome of the project.”

It is hoped the trial will confirm the technology is reliable and robust enough to cope with outdoor environments, while delivering superior performance compared to alternatives in the market. The technology will enable high speed internet in urban, suburban and rural locations alike, as demand for ultrafast broadband (1Gbps+) continues to increase.

Unitron CTO, Stephen Deleu, said: “With this VLAIO project, UnitronGroup will expand its knowledge in the higher frequency ranges and discover new wireless applications for ultrafast broadband communication. UnitronGroup is the market leader in multiple high frequency technologies, and collaborating with knowledge partners helps us strengthen our position. As a key technology partner for multiple telecom operators, our role in this ambitious project is to provide the FWA customer and distribution node elements. We are excited to be part of this consortium and looking forward to the insights and outcomes of this VLAIO project.”