Arqiva to kick off 5G FWA trial in July

Arqiva is ready to launch its trial of 5G Fixed Wireless Access in the 28GHz band, working with its provider Samsung.

Arqiva’s head of telecoms Nicolas Ott has confirmed that the company will begin its outdoor trial of 28GHz “5G” Fixed Wireless Access technology in July. TMN understands from other sources that the trial will be publicly launched next week, although Ott was not willing to put an exact date on the launch.

The trial will begin with a single point-to-point (PtP) link from a rooftop in an area of central London known as Fitzrovia.  Ott said that Arqiva would look to stress the radio link as much as possible with very high throughput loads – enough to deliver 40 4k TV streams simultaneously.

The Fitzrovia area of London, close to the BT Tower and mobile comms infrastructure from all the UK’s MNOs is a good test venue, Ott said, as it creates a dense and complex radio environment.

The plan is then to expand from the one PtP link to a PtMP deployment in September, with the rooftop access point serving other receiving nodes. Arqiva hopes testing later in the year would provide more testing weather conditions to study the effects of heavier rainfall on RF performance.

Samsung has announced commercial 28GHz FWA technology – a base station and home router. Samsung is also a provider to Verizon’s FWA field trials, with products designed to Verizon’s 5GTF specifications. It’s not yet clear what version of radio product Arqiva will be using for the trial – expect more details next week.

Arqiva’s plan is to act as a wholesale provider of FWA to fixed and mobile operators looking for a replacement or competitive service to fibre or fixed broadband. Ott said he did not think Arqiva would be investing in further spectrum bands. Its existing blocks of 2x112MHz at 28GHz and 2x224MHz nationwide spectrum were enough to provide Gbps connectivity to users, he said.

“Our role is very clear. First, as a providers of towers. Secondly, as a neutral infrastructure host for small cells deployments. Third, to propose a FWA 5G service to fixed and mobile operators to be rolled out in areas where they wish to commercialise to their customers.” 

Small Cellls on the way

Ariqva’s 28GHz spectrum is also in use as a backhaul option for small cells – as a fibre replacement. Ott said he expects there to be hundreds of thousands of small cells deployed in the UK by 2025, with the highest densities starting in London, then Birmingham and Manchester. He includes C-RAN deployments where remote radio heads are connected to pooled basebands within that forecast.

Operators might share sites and physicals, but each would want their own small cells or remote radio heads, he said. That’s because operators have different spectrum bands to play in, and differing views on the best backhaul to adopt. One proposal for 5G small cell densification has been that operators might share access deployments, to spread the cost of very dense deployments.

A submission to Ofcom recently showed that Arqiva is currently deploying small cells in the UK, using 28 GHz for backhaul in Hammersmith and Fulham, for example, where it has established a point to multipoint solution using our 2×224 MHz spectrum holdings (currently using 112 MHz channels of its spectrum to deliver this backhaul).

Arqiva told Ofcom: “In order to deliver 5G services to mobile users there will be a need to deploy small cells on a scale not previously seen in the UK. The expectation is that hundreds of thousands of small cells are expected to be rolled out in the Greater London area alone and over a million will likely be required across the country.

Small cell deployment in significant numbers will require the use of buildings or other structures, such as lamp posts and other suitable street furniture. As it stands there are challenges to businesses in getting the planning permission that they need in order to roll out small cells.

We believe that fixed wireless access (FWA) will play an increasingly central role in delivering high speed data services to premises and, with effective implementation, could provide strong competition to copper and/or fibre delivery.”