SureCall: Repeaters give 5G mmWave a much-needed boost

Like a lot of smaller upstart vendors, SureCall knows what it’s like to work with wireless carriers. It can be a long, arduous process. Relationships typically don’t move at the speed of lightning, and landing a contract takes time.

To be sure, privately held SureCall isn’t a young startup. It’s been in the mobile booster business for more than 20 years.

It's been in just the past six years or so that the company has worked on and off with Verizon, according to SureCall CEO and founder Hongtao Zhan. That work paid off in a big way this past week, when Verizon announced two new 5G repeater vendors, Fremont, California-based SureCall and South Korea-based FRTek.

RELATED: Verizon adds more repeaters to its 5G repertoire

Financial terms were not disclosed, but SureCall will be supplying Verizon with an undisclosed number of repeaters, also known as signal boosters, to give its Ultra Wideband service a boost in coverage.

Verizon’s Ultra Wideband service uses millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, typically 28 GHz but other bands as well. The higher bands provide great capacity and speeds but not so much in the area of coverage.

Cue the signal booster, a product that wasn’t always popular with carriers. In the 5G world, however, it’s become something of a godsend.  

The Ultra Wideband 5G “changed everything,” Zhan told Fierce. Boosters now are “a good thing for wireless carriers.” Especially with mmWave, “they’re a match made in heaven. They’re made for each other.”

In the past, carriers generally had concerns about boosters because they could cause interference, acknowledged Laine Matthews, VP of Business Development at SureCall. “They honestly didn’t have protections built in to make sure that the network would not be interfered with,” he said.

SureCall boosters, for many years now, have had network protection technology built in that ensures there’s no network interference or degradation, he said. In 2019, SureCall announced its 5G mmWave booster platform.

The 5G booster is carrier-grade equipment, for integration into cell tower networks. Called the Horizon, it was designed with the carriers, so it’s built to a higher standard than regular off-the-shelf commercial products.

Signal boosters are smaller than small cells and relatively easy to deploy, but operators still need to get the proper permitting through municipalities if they’re going to put them, say, on light poles. The advantage of the booster is it doesn’t require fiber or other backhaul. SureCall’s boosters also can be powered via solar. 

While different types of signal boosters are used in carrier networks and venues like sports stadiums, consumers can also buy them on or elsewhere and self-install them at home. In fact, over the past year, as work and study shifted from offices and schools to homes during the pandemic, people who previously had only a casual need for coverage in their homes suddenly moved to having a compelling need, said SureCall's VP of Marketing Jon Bacon.

That sent a lot of folks looking for signal boosters. “It’s been a very busy year,” he said.

Story updated to reflect that SureCall’s 5G Horizon booster was designed to meet carrier standards.