Pivotal achieves 1.3 Gbps in Echo 5G field trial

In-building penetration has always been a challenge for millimeter wave deployments, but Pivotal Commware, a startup with the backing of Bill Gates, says its technology rises to the challenge. The company just completed a field trial at 28 GHz that achieved throughput of 1.3 Gbps using its Holographic Beam Forming (HBF) technology.

The demo was set up at a location in Pivotal’s hometown of Kirkland, Washington, using four x 100 MHz channels, with Pivotal’s Echo 5G beamforming repeater positioned at a 45-degree angle from a 5G base station located at the equivalent distance of 1,640 feet away.

The Echo was affixed to a double-pane window. When the Echo was turned off, downlink and uplink failed to connect. When they turned it on, throughput reached the 1.3 Gbps mark.

The company isn’t disclosing the identities of any OEMs or operators that were part of the trial.

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In-building penetration has been a sticking point in terms of making millimeter wave work, for mobile or fixed wireless access (FWA). But Pivotal set out to tackle the challenge—and make it economical, to boot, according to Pivotal CEO Brian Deutsch. Operators are looking at FWA as a way to compete with entrenched cable operators in residential areas and get a return on their 5G investments.  

“We’re really passionate believers and supporters that fixed wireless access is really that first low-hanging fruit for all the mobile network operators, and some are positioned better than others for it,” Deutsch told FierceWirelessTech.

Pivotal’s system essentially grabs the signal outside the glass and amplifies it, pushing it through the other side to the living room or throughout the house. But it has to do it in a way in which it’s economical; they can’t have one base station serving 10 houses, for example. They need to be able to serve dozens of homes and do so in a challenging RF environment.

The beamformer has a low cost, size, weight and power-consumption profile, and it can connect with a base station that is half a kilometer away. It's also desirable for the customer equipment to be self-installable; truck rolls and technicians are expensive.

Plans call for making the Echo 5G commercially available by late 2019 or 2020. The cost to the end user will be up to operators, but Pivotal is shooting for a cost of sub-$500 per unit, including the CPE. It’s currently working with chip vendors.

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Of course, Verizon has been the most aggressive in terms of readying a FWA service, and it’s announced three of the four markets that will get its version of 5G this year. During a panel at the 5G North America trade show in May, Verizon executives discussed using installers with minimal training to put equipment in customers’ homes. Samsung, its vendor in Sacramento, has developed both an indoor router and an outdoor router for 5G. 

Pivotal isn’t revealing which carriers it’s talking with, but suffice it to say, it’s carriers both in and outside the U.S. The company still needs to do more trials, which is a long process, and it needs to convince operators that it’s going to work. But Deutsch is optimistic. “We’re kind of here to say that we’ve seen it, we’ve done it and it works very good,” he said.