Samsung applies new RF planning tools to mmWave

Millimeter wave spectrum has not been well understood, especially as it relates to 5G, so whatever network planning tools an operator can tap are likely going to be appreciated.

That’s why Samsung Electronics America made a point of developing RF network planning tools that could evaluate propagation characteristics before an installer even goes out into the field.

Because of beam forming and the way millimeter wave propagates, “the existing RF planning tools really aren’t well-suited to the needs of operators,” Alok Shah, vice president of Networks Strategy, Business Development and Marketing at Samsung Electronics America, told FierceWirelessTech. “Those will continue to get better, I’m sure, but we wanted to make sure that was not an impediment to successful deployments, so we built some RF siting tools that our partners are using in early network planning and deployments.”

Verizon selected Samsung to supply fixed wireless access (FWA) solutions for its 5G commercial launch in Sacramento later this year. Last week, Samsung said its end-to-end 5G portfolio is now FCC certified. Verizon plans to launch three to five fixed 5G markets this year but hasn’t named the other markets.  

RELATED: Verizon’s 5G plans begin to sharpen

Samsung’s portfolio includes the access unit and indoor and outdoor home routers. In most cases, the indoor router will be sufficient, but it depends on the characteristics of the physical structure and surroundings.

“We believe in the majority of cases, an in-home router will get the job done, but there are going to be some number of homes where, for whatever reason, we need to get a little boost, so then the outdoor home router is an option,” Shah explained.  

Each router has the same basic functionality, but for some homes where there’s a lot of foliage in the yard, the elevations are tricky or the building materials are made of thick concrete, an outdoor router might be the answer.  

That’s where the RF network planning tools come in handy. Millimeter wave spectrum really has not been well understood, especially for 5G, “so we’ve done a lot of work” around RF planning to understand what the propagation looks like before the installer gets there, he said.

Samsung’s network planning tool is a cloud-based solution that uses cloud processing to get the proper amount of computational resources where they’re required to basically map where the beams are going and where the router should sit to get the best-possible signal strength.

It’s worth noting the differences in RF planning for a mobile world versus fixed. Because the mobile units are always moving around, the RF modeling involves estimates about where the units and users will be at a given time and place. Mobile users are constantly moving around, so engineers need to create a bubble of coverage that covers a set of locations.

In fixed wireless, the end user isn't around so much, so it's a matter of figuring out where the router is going to be and what provides the ability to do more accurate network planning.

Samsung has done research in millimeter wave propagation since about 2010 with universities and operator partners around the world and at its own campus in South Korea. Of course, it's also learned a lot through its trials with Verizon in the U.S.; Samsung was involved in seven of Verizon’s 11 trial markets.