Pivotal sets up shop at Luxe to show off mmWave HBF

Pivotal Commware will be conducting live demonstrations of its Echo 5G products from a conference room at the Luxe Hotel during Mobile World Congress Los Angeles this week.

Part of the reason the company chose that venue has to do with getting away from the noise that will be swirling around the Convention Center. But it also found what it believes is a good set-up to show off what its technology can do in the real world.

In a nutshell, the Pivotal team placed an Echo 5G Network device next to the Luxe such that it’s bending the 5G 28 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) signal (provided by an unnamed operator) to the Echo 5G Subscriber device that is situated on a window of the hotel. That Subscriber device captures the signal and transfers it into the room, where it gently floods the interior of the room (as opposed to a spotlight-type of beam), according to Pivotal Commware CEO Brian Deutsch.

The Echo 5G Subscriber propagates the mmWave signal indoors so that other 5G mmWave devices can work indoors, as opposed to having a Wi-Fi device like some other deployments. Using Wi-Fi essentially defeats the purpose since it has lower latency, one of the key deliverables in 5G.

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According to Pivotal, it introduces a new choice for fixed wireless access (FWA) providers serving homes and enterprises, facilitating Gigabit speeds.

Echo 5G Subscriber unit attaches to a window.
(Pivotal Commware)

The Echo 5G product line uses Pivotal’s patented Holographic Beam Forming (HBF) technology, which it says is smaller in size, weight and cost than other technologies, like phased array. In fact, Deutsch said the company, which employs about 75 people and is growing, hired a lot of seasoned industry veterans, including those with years of experience in phased array, so it knows its weaknesses very well.

Critics like to diss mmWave for its challenging propagation characteristics, but Pivotal, like some others in the space, are using those same characteristics to their advantage. The Echo network product is essentially a repeater—and repeater is no longer a dirty word, Deutsch noted. Old-school repeaters didn't have beamforming; the new way of doing it means the signal only goes where you want it to go. If you were standing next to the window, the repeater would look like a G Node B, he said.

“It’s kind of a new regime that allows carriers to actually build out a network in a more organic fashion and allows them to commensurately grow their cap ex spend along with their revenue,” which is kind of a first, he said. “We’re super excited about it.”

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When they were scoping out the terrain outside the Luxe, it became apparent how they were going to set it up. “My team knows me very well,” he said. “It’s like, ‘hey wait a second,' we can do this lay-up or we can do this buzzer beater half-court shot, and actually redirect the signal ourselves, show off our network gear into the Luxe, and … it’s very impressive.”

The company expects to ship products before the end of the year for commercial deployment; it’s not naming any operators just yet, but the first units will be for 28 Ghz and 39 GHz, with 24 GHz coming later. For the purposes of the test at the Luxe, it’s communicating with a commercial, standardized 28 GHz node.