Charter eyeing 5G fixed wireless broadband service

U.S. cable operator Charter Communications said it is currently carrying out 5G testing in a move to use fixed wireless services to expand coverage. In a blog post, the operator said it’s “actively developing and testing” 5G wireless connectivity in a growing number of markets, including Orlando, Florida; Reno, Nevada; Clarksville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Bakersfield, California and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Charter added that it it will rely increasingly on next-generation wireless technologies to help the operator improve and expand the reach of its wired broadband network infrastructure.

Charter highlighted that the deployment of 5G technologies using lower-frequency bands, can help deliver wireline-like internet speeds in rural areas.

According to the company, some current 5G technologies, usually delivered in millimeter wave bands, face challenges to cover the long distances required in many rural areas, and have trouble dealing with areas with lots of trees and foliage. “However, Charter believes fixed wireless access technologies at lower frequencies could be suitable for rural broadband, providing wireline-like broadband connectivity and speeds, and is conducting trials in the 3.5-GHz band,” the company said.

“Whether it’s testing 5G technologies, investing in broadband infrastructure or expanding the reach of our wired network, we are committed to doing more to deliver better and faster broadband to more communities – large and small, urban and suburban,” Charter added.

In September 2017, Charter had signed an agreement with Samsung Electronics America to collaborate on 5G and 4G LTE wireless networks lab and field trials at various locations in the U.S. The trials were expected to be fully completed by the end of last year.

At that time, Charter said that the 5G trial would allow the company to evaluate fixed use cases using Samsung’s pre-commercial 28 GHz (mmWave) system and devices. The 4G trials were performed at 3.5 GHz, utilizing Samsung’s combined 4G LTE small cell technology in an outdoor environment to evaluate mobile use cases.

Charter had previously announced plans to launch a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) scheme during 2018 using Verizon’s spectrum. Samsung is one of the companies chosen to collaborate with Charter to test 4G LTE mobile service in support of the operator’s MVNO wireless strategy.

5G is being tested by all telecommunications operators across the country in a move to pave the way for the commercial launch of the technology in the coming years.

Last year Verizon tested 5G fixed wireless access in 11 U.S. markets, which the company said included several hundred cell sites that cover several thousand customer locations. Verizon CFO Matthew Ellis recently said that the company’s 5G trials using millimeter wave spectrum are exceeding expectations in “commercial-type tests.”

Earlier this month, AT&T confirmed it aims to deliver mobile 5G services based on the forthcoming 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standard in more than a dozen markets by late 2018. The operator said that the mobile service will leverage existing network infrastructure that supports its gigabit LTE offering, which the company refers to as 5G Evolution, as well as pre-standard 5G fixed wireless trials for both residential and enterprise use cases. AT&T’s 5G Evolution service is available in 23 metro areas including Atlanta, Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston.

T-Mobile US recently connected a Nokia base station with Intel’s 5G Mobile Trial Platform using the 28 GHz band in an outdoor environment in its hometown of Bellevue, Washington.

Sprint also announced it intends to deliver 5G in late 2019. The telco has been involved in 5G trials with vendors including Nokia and Ericsson.

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