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 company isn’t disclosing the identities of any OEMs or operators that were part of the trial.
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.
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.
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.
Another device from Pivotal is Fasthaul
As a CPRI bridge product for wireless fronthaul transport, Fasthaul™ was developed so 4G and 5G network operators interested in the benefits of C-RAN can avoid the high cost and typically long lead time of connecting every small cell with dark fiber.
Instead of using fiber, Fasthaul delivers CPRI over a high-speed wireless connection using millimeter wave frequencies. Fasthaul provides a bridge from a dark fiber donor site, connected to a cloud-based BBU, to a fiberstranded acceptor site housing one or more RRUs.
A high-level topology for single donor-single acceptor configuration is shown in Figure 1. Fasthaul tames CPRI’s appetite for bandwidth and intolerance of bit errors by combining Holographic Beam Forming™ (HBF) antenna technology at 39 GHz frequencies with its high-performance Thresher™ modem.
Fasthaul supports auto-alignment and discovery, allowing for installation and configuration without the use of expensive third-party antenna alignment systems. Once installed, Directivity-on-Demand™ allows Fasthaul to instantly compensate for pole sway/tilt so it stays aligned automatically.
HBF is particularly well-suited to small cell installation because it offers the lowest cost, size, weight and power consumption (C-SWaP) profile of any beamformer.
Thinner, lighter and conformal HBF antennas also address aesthetic concerns of the communities who adopt them. Key attributes of a single Fasthaul front end/antenna system include:
• Supports 39 GHz
• Uses 100 MHz + 100 MHz channel pair for wireless link, channel aggregation available
• Two CPRI v6 optical ports, CPRI line rate up to 9.8 Gbps per port (up to option 7)
• Support of any 4G LTE FDD/TDD frequency with bandwidths up to 20 MHz
• 0.8-kilometer range at max line rate, greater than 1 km for lower options No more stranded small cells. www.pivotalcommware.com Pivotal Commware A World of Limitless Connectivity Fasthaul™ Pivotal Commware 10801 120th Ave NE, #200 Kirkland, WA 98033 USA Phone: (425) 365-0408 General Information and sales: email@example.com
• Easy installation (less than 2 hours)
• Automatic commissioning (instantaneous upon power up)
• Automatic commissioning field of view -50° to 50° in azimuth and -20° to 20° in elevation, with manual adjustment extends to full 360°
• Cloud based remote control and monitoring
• Size: 8” x 8” x 4” Fasthaul is the industry’s first and fastest millimeter wave CPRI bridge. Fasthaul offers C-RAN, 4G and 5G network operators the highest performance, lowest C-SWaP wireless CPRI bridge available today.
This is technology used by DARPA, who gave contracts to private companies in 2014 to expand on this technology.
DARPA hires seven companies, spends more than $100 million, to reinvent the RF phased array antenna
ARLINGTON, Va., 4 April 2014. U.S. military researchers plan to spend more than $100 million, involve at least seven defense companies, and award at least nine separate contracts in a landmark project to speed development of electronic RF phased array antennas for communications, signals intelligence (SIGINT), radar, and electronic warfare (EW).
The program, sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., is called Arrays at Commercial Timescales (ACT) program, which seeks to do nothing less than re-invent how the military develops RF and microwave technology for a broad variety of applications that include advanced radar, electronic warfare, communications, and electronic intelligence.
The list of companies involved in the DARPA ACT program reads like a who’s who of the nation’s most prominent prime defense integrators and top research institutions. Among the ACT contractors are Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Rockwell Collins, HRL Laboratories, and Georgia Tech Applied Research.
Together these organizations are trying to move beyond the traditional specialized and time-consuming array design process and focus on new ways of developing RF phased array antenna transmit and receive modules.
RF phased arrays use numerous small antennas to steer RF beams without mechanical movement. Their lack of moving parts enable them to look in several directions at once. Still, this technology is extremely expensive and can take many years to engineer and build.
The problem revolves around the need to start engineering RF arrays from scratch. The ACT program aims at creating shared hardware for future military phased arrays. ACT technologies could save the Pentagon billions of dollars and require years less research and development time for new systems, DARPA officials say.
The program has three thrusts: a common building block for RF arrays; a reconfigurable electromagnetic interface; and over-the-air coherent array aggregation.
DARPA awarded the first ACT contracts late last year. The Raytheon Co. Space and Airborne Systems segment in El Segundo, Calif., won a $19.5 million ACT contract on 17 Dec. 2013. The Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems segment in Linthicum Heights, Md., followed the next day with a $21.9 million ACT contract, and the Lockheed Martin Corp. Mission Systems and Training segment in Moorestown, N.J., won an $18.5 million ACT contract on 19 Dec. 2013.
The new year brought another participant to the ACT program. on 14 Jan. 2014 Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, won an $11.5 million contract, followed by a $5.9 million ACT contract to the Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems segment in Tewksbury, Mass., on 26 Feb.
Four more DARPA ACT contracts came last month, beginning on 24 March with a $7.4 million contract to HRL Laboratories LLC in Malibu, Calif.; a $4.6 million contract to the Boeing Co. in Seattle on 26 March; a $5.5 million contract to Georgia Tech Applied Research Corp. in Atlanta on 27 March; and a $5.5 million to Raytheon Integrated Defense in Tewksbury, Mass., on 28 March. In all, Raytheon scooped up three separate DARPA ACT research contracts.
It was not clear by this week if DARPA program managers are finished awarding contracts for the program.
Today’s RF and microwave systems increasingly use antenna arrays for multiple beam forming and electronic steering, yet these arrays are expensive and time-consuming to develop and upgrade in the field. While the commercial market has set the pace of how electronic systems evolve, military electronics development lags behind, DARPA researchers say.
A fielded military system based on decade-old electronics, for example, has a small fraction of the capabilities of a system based on modern components, and the performance gap is widening between RF components and digital electronics.
As a result, a system with static RF or analog features cannot capitalize on advancements of the underlying digital electronics. the ACT contractors will help DARPA define a path toward shorter design cycles and infield updates.
The DARPA ACT contractors will try to push past the traditional barriers that lead to 10-year array development cycles, 20-to-30-year static life cycles, and costly service life extension programs by developing new technology for custom arrays that takes advantage of constantly evolving digital components.
Specifically, experts from Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) in one contract will concentrate on developing a common hardware module applicable to many different array functions, as well as combining arrays on separate platforms into a larger aperture with precise timing and localization. Rockwell Collins also is working on this first thrust of the DARPA ACT program.
In a second separate contract, Raytheon IDS experts will focus on developing a reconfigurable electromagnetic interface for different polarizations, frequencies, and bandwidths by creating a customizable electromagnetic interface to a common module. Boeing, Georgia Tech, and HRL Laboratories also are working on this second thrust of the DARPA ACT program.
Georgia Tech researchers have proposed a reconfigurable electromagnetic interface (REI) with an integrated reconfigurable ground plane that can be optimized in-situ for frequency, bandwidth, beam pattern, steering, null placement, polarization, and input impedance.
They plan to capitalize on the gain of the array to match the gain of the standard array, but with added ability to reconfigure for different missions, to train to its environment, and to require a lower feed density and lower common module density than a traditional array.
Boeing, meanwhile, has proposed a novel RF phased array antenna (PAA) composed of reconfigurable wideband elements. Boeing researchers will scale the device for configurability within the 2-to-12-GHz frequency range but this technique could be scaled to other frequency bands as well.
The reconfigurable Boeing array should be modifiable in the field to support common module changes or emergent mission requirements. Reconfigurable arrays have persistent challenges in four main technological categories: array element performance; low-loss switches; controlling switches without hurting array performance; and fabricating interconnect structures.
The DARPA ACT program also seeks to combine arrays on separate platforms into a larger aperture with precise timing and localization. The goal is to create electromagnetic interface arrays that can be fielded at a rate to match that of commercially developed electronic components.
For more information contact participants online:
— Boeing at www.boeing.com;
— Georgia Tech Applied Research at www.gtarc.gatech.edu;
— HRL Laboratories at www.hrl.com;
— Lockheed Martin Corp. Mission Systems and Training at www.lockheedmartin.com/us/mst;
— Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems at www.northropgrumman.com;
— Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems at www.raytheon.com/capabilities/ew;
In September, Pivotal Commware signed a deal with four unnamed companies to invest in this technology.