Verizon takes delivery of Ericsson’s U.S.-made 5G base station

Ericsson announced today that Verizon is the first recipient of a U.S.-manufactured commercial 5G base station from Ericsson’s new smart factory in Texas.

Ericsson back in March said that the first product made at the factory was a millimeter wave (mmWave) Street Macro solution, which is what Verizon received. All of the radio access components are housed in one lightweight enclosure for deployment in city environments.

Verizon’s mmWave-based mobile 5G service is available in parts of 35 cities, with plans to be in at least 60 by the end of the year. The company last week reiterated that it’s on track to deploy more than five times as many mmWave base stations this year compared to last.

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"Ericsson's smart factory is a cornerstone of our collaboration as we work together to bring 5G to our consumer, enterprise and public safety customers," said Verizon CTO Kyle Malady in a statement. "Together these types of innovation will accelerate our 5G deployments, as we expand our 5G leadership in technology and continue to rapidly build the ecosystem with our partners."

Ericsson said the delivery, which is the subject of a short video, was made in adherence with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing due to COVID-19, ensuring the exchange was contract-free.

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The 300,000-square-foot factory began commercial operations in March and will be fully operational by the end of the year. It’s producing 5G and Advanced Antenna System radios to boost network capacity, and the facility itself is outfitted with 5G connectivity to enable “agile operations and flexible production,” according to Ericsson.

Ericsson has said it wants to locate more manufacturing operations closer to its customers in order to mitigate potential risks or regional disruptions and reduce dependence on one supply site or vendor. Since it first announced the U.S.-based plant, however, calls have increased for more U.S.-based suppliers in wireless.

Keeping on during pandemic

During the Fierce 5G Blitz event last week, Malady said he’s proud of how Verizon’s engineers, technicians and operations staff have been adapting during the pandemic and acknowledged that a lot of traffic moved out of urban areas and into more rural areas or edges of towns.  

Verizon’s strategy to use mmWave was developed years ago and it’s been working relentlessly on both mmWave and 5G to create a groud-breaking type of service, he said. It’s still early days but they’re already seeing in the range of 2 gigabits per second on a cell phone using mmWave.

“We don’t see millimeter wave as a detriment at all," he said. "We think the amount of bandwidth that we have there, we’re industry leading. We will leverage that and we’re early days… We’re going to keep building."

Verizon has been working on dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) that will allow it to use LTE spectrum for 5G rather than having to undergo the traditional and time-consuming refarming. “It’s going well,” he said, with plans to deploy DSS throughout the U.S. this year for a national 5G layer.