The trio managed to extend the range of a 1Gpbs mmWave signal to 10km in their latest tests

Typically defined as frequency bands in the 24 GHz to 100 GHz range, mmWave offers operators the opportunity the potential to support large bandwidths and high data rates, making it ideal for increasing the capacity for wireless networks. 

However, the catch is that the short wavelengths mean that propagation is problematic, potentially being blocked by various common obstacles, including walls and foliage, and even being absorbed by atmospheric water vapor. As a result, transmitting a mmWave signal over long distances is a significant challenge, meaning mmWave’s potential use cases are somewhat limited. 

Now, however, a trial by Uscellular alongside Nokia and Qualcomm have demonstrated download speeds of 1Gbps over 28 GHz spectrum at a range of 10km. This represents a significant gain on Uscellular’s previous tests earlier in the year, which saw 1Gbps speeds achieved over a distance of 7km.

Multiple locations were tested, with line-of-sight results showing that 748 Mbps downlink speeds and 56.78 Mbps uplink speeds were achievable at distances of 11.14km.

“These results demonstrate what 5G mmWave will bring to consumers, enterprises and industries,” said Tommi Uitto, president of mobile networks, Nokia. “By extending the distance for 5G mmWave technology without sacrificing speed or latency, we will deliver an incredible 5G experience to even more areas.”

The trio said they hoped to use mmWave solutions to close the ‘digital divide’ primarily by enabling more effective Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solutions for customers who do not have access to a quality fixed line broadband connection. This will be particularly useful for those in rural areas, where it may be difficult or not cost effective for operators to rollout traditional connectivity. 

UScellular is not the only operator looking to push the boundaries of mmWave spectrum. The National Broadband Network in Australia, for example, was notably conducting mmWave tests over around 7km back in January this year. 

But, promising though mmWave is, it should be remembered that spectrum in relevant bands is not yet widely available around the world. In Europe, for example, only seven European countries have made mmWave spectrum in the 26 GHz range available so far, with more than 40% expected to award at least part of the band by the end of 2021. A report by Analysys Mason, released yesterday, argued that Europe was risking falling behind other regions, such as the US, who have already held three mmWave auctions.

“It is clear, however, that there is much work to do to catch up with other regions around the world that are seeing the benefits of commercializing 5G mmWave services,” explained Qualcomm’s Wassim Chourbaji, SVP of Government Affairs EMEA.


What will mmWave solution improvements mean for the deployment of fixed wireless access? Find out from the experts at this year’s Total Telecom Congress 

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