UScellular launches mmWave-based FWA in 10 cities

After a series of field tests and demos with vendors, UScellular is rolling out a high-speed internet service in parts of 10 cities using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum.

And while that doesn’t sound like anything new – bigger operators like Verizon have been using mmWave to deliver 5G for some time now – UScellular is doing it in markets where mmWave doesn’t traditionally shine the brightest.

UScellular offers a home broadband service using LTE in all of its markets, but this new service uses 5G and mmWave spectrum. According to the operator, its Home Internet+ solution delivers speeds of up to 300 Mbps, an increase of 10-15 times compared to its 4G LTE home internet offering.

The fixed wireless access (FWA) service is available now in parts of East Moline and Rock Island, Ill.; Bettendorf, Cedar Falls, Davenport, Dubuque and Waterloo, Iowa; Yakima, Wash.; and Beloit and Janesville, Wis.

The launch comes after a friendly user trial that started in Janesville in 2021.

UScellular and its partners previously shared results of tests showing remarkable speeds and range for mmWave.

In 2020, the carrier, along with Ericsson and Qualcomm, completed an extended range 5G mmWave data call over a distance of more than 5 kilometers (around 3.1 miles) at speeds over 100 Mbps. Last year, UScellular set a record of 10 km (about 6.2 miles) in tests with Nokia and Qualcomm.

Spectrum at mmWave frequencies brings a lot of bandwidth but its signals don’t reach very far, making it best suited for dense urban areas as opposed to the more rural areas where UScellular does most of its business.

However, the partners on this deployment say 5G mmWave is an affordable and accessible solution to expand broadband services into these kinds of areas. UScellular said its Home Internet+ service enables seamless video conferencing with hundreds of participants, as well as simultaneous streaming of shows, music and gaming.

UScellular is using infrastructure from both Nokia and Ericsson. Both the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands are part of the deployment, a spokesperson told Fierce.  

“At UScellular, we are passionate and motivated to deliver on our mission of connecting people and communities to what matters most to them,” said Mike Irizarry, executive vice president and chief technology officer at UScellular, in a statement. “This FWA solution is key to providing customers affordable and reliable in-home connectivity no matter where they live, and we look forward to expanding it to more areas in 2022 and beyond.”

Expansion plans

Throughout 2022, UScellular plans to increase its Home Internet+ service within its existing cities and expand to dozens more in both urban and rural areas, including Springfield and Tipton, Mo., Knoxville, Tenn., and Kenosha and Milwaukee, Wis. Prospective customers can check here to see if their area is supported.

The service uses the Inseego Wavemaker FW2010 outdoor 5G CPE – powered, of course, by the Qualcomm 5G Fixed Wireless Access Platform Gen 1 with the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System, for high-speed internet access to customers’ homes or business.

Qualcomm has been a big fan of mmWave; it has devoted significant time and resources developing technology for the spectrum.

“This expansion of delivering high-speed internet to untapped cities is a testament to Qualcomm Technologies efforts to bridge the digital divide,” said Gautam Sheoran, vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, in a statement. “By equipping operators and OEMs with cost-effective, last-mile technologies, we are able to empower end users and enterprises with best-in-class 5G connectivity for homes and businesses, including those in previously underserved areas.”The Inseego Wavemaker FW2010 outdoor CPE delivers multi-gigabit download speeds. It connects to a Wi-Fi router to provide internet access for numerous devices throughout a home, business or office.

The FW2010 can extend mmWave coverage many miles away from a cell tower, according to a press release. It also supports 5G sub-6 GHz and Cat 22 LTE.