C Spire is one of the nation’s largest regional wireless network operators. It has been providing wireless services in Mississippi and elsewhere for decades, and currently operates an extensive LTE network. It owns spectrum licenses ranging from 700 MHz to 28 GHz.
The company announced it is using Wi-Fi technology and unlicensed spectrum to deploy 120 Mbps downstream / 50 Mbps upstream fixed wireless internet services to consumers and businesses in locations across Mississippi. C Spire is selling its service such that customers can sign up at $50-per-month service at any time, without any startup or equipment fees, and can suspend or cancel their service at any time for any reason.
C Spire is branding its service as “5G” as per these quotes from its website:
“Our service runs on amazing 5G fixed wireless technology that is capable of delivering blazing fast speeds without the arbitrary data caps usually associated with LTE or satellite services.”
“C Spire runs Fiber up to the edge of your neighborhood or business district. We then use 5G tech to connect a series of base stations that in turn provide you with high speed internet through the air.”
According to Mike Dano of Fierce Wireless:
Craig Sparks, C Spire’s VP of technology, said that the carrier is using equipment and technology from upstart fixed wireless vendors Mimosa and Siklu to deploy its new service. He said the company enters each new neighborhood by deploying fiber to a “hub home.” That home gets free internet service from the company, but also broadcasts a wireless signal via Mimosa equipment operating in unlicensed 5.8 GHz spectrum to nearby homes. Mimosa’s transmission technology uses a proprietary iteration of the 802.11 standard that powers standard Wi-Fi connections. For nearby homes that sign up for its service, C Spire installs a dinner plate-sized antenna receiver on their roof.
Sparks said that C Spire can expand throughout a neighborhood via wireless backhaul connections using Siklu’s equipment running in the unlicensed 60 GHz band. So, after connecting the first hub location via fiber, Sparks said C Spire can wirelessly “chain” additional hub homes to the network via Siklu’s backhaul equipment. Again, each hub home running Siklu’s equipment gets free internet service from C Spire.
“It actually increases a sense of ownership in the neighborhood,” Sparks said of those hub homes. “And then they go out and they are evangelistic” about the service. Sparks added that C Spire can also deploy the service in ring designs, thus improving reliability.
C Spire owns the kind of millimeter wave spectrum and has vendor relationships that would presumably position the carrier to join Verizon and AT&T on the forefront of FAKE 5G deployments. But 5G is not economical for this type of service, Sparks explained.
“The normal players, they’re just stuck in a business model around a mobility yesteryear,” he said, noting that C Spire is paying around $1,000 for each base station and around $100 for each antenna installed on customers’ roofs. That’s far less than what bigger vendors charge for LTE and 5G equipment. “They’ve got some serious competition that’s currently taking the lead on some price performance.”
“These kinds of players like Mimosa are really innovating in terms of the equipment,” Sparks said.
“We can’t just make this a 3GPP conversation,” he said. “The industry is better served by having some more options in unlicensed under 6 GHz,” he added.
At this point, it appears that the official FUTURE standard for 5G – IMT 2020- has become irrelevant as every Tom, Dick and Harry wireless carrier claims their new Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) technology is 5G. No matter that BWA is not even an IMT 2020 use case, that the mmWave frequencies used are not yet approved spectrum, and that the focus of all six entities that are proposing IMT 2020 Radio Interface Technologies (RITs) is mobile broadband access-not fixed BWA!
The noise and hype is do deafening, I’m ready to throw in the towel on refuting the non stop, outrageous “5G’ claims!
Addendum: T-Mobile’s 5G Network
5G is a massive inflection point in the user experience. At full deployment the New T-Mobile will deliver fiber-like speeds. I’m talking about average speeds at a blazing 444 Mbps, covering about two-thirds of the country, with jaw-dropping peak speeds up to 4.1 Gbps!! And you won’t have to wait long to see these amazing increases in speed and performance. By 2021 our engineers are planning to deliver 5G speeds 5X faster than the LTE speeds being delivered on the nation’s fastest LTE network today… that is of course the T-Mobile network. During that same time Neville (T-Mobile’s CTO) and his team will also be increasing our LTE speeds!
That will unlock amazing applications and uses, many of which we can’t even conceive of today. It will make possible real-time interactivity from virtually anywhere, allowing for near instantaneous sharing and downloading of content from almost any location.
This will transform the way Americans live, work, travel, and play. Nearly every business in America will use 5G to revolutionize how they create and deliver goods and services. And, every market, ranging from gaming to health care, from AI to transportation, from manufacturing to education will benefit. This merger is an important contributor to American leadership broadly across economic and social lines.
On the companies last quarterly earnings call:
“So, what do you do with a nationwide average of 450 megabits per second?” asked T-Mobile’s Mike Sievert. “Well, first you recognize that that’s way higher than most people get in their home broadband (access) today. So, of course, we can be a competitor in that space. And this is a market that’s incredibly underserved; 53% of high-speed broadband customers have only one choice for high-speed broadband in their area. So there’s a huge opportunity here for us to bring real competitiveness to that market for the first time.”
Despite the extremely optimistic remarks about 5G from the above T-Mobile executives, no one from the company attended last week’s ITU-R WP 5D meeting where IMT 2020 was progressed. Sprint, which hopes to merge with T-Mobile, did send one delegate to the meeting.
AT&T is not the only U.S. carrier attempting to provide broadband fixed wireless access to rural areas. CenturyLink has requested an experimental license from the Federal Communications Commission for a test to reach isolated rural areas via a fixed wireless service over the 3.4 GHz to 3.7 GHz spectrum band.
The trial is aimed to evaluate the use of wireless spectrum to provide broadband services to those rural areas where it’s difficult to make wire-line infrastructure/facilities available.
“The testing seeks to understand the viability of new technologies in this band,” CenturyLink wrote in an FCC filing.
“CenturyLink seeks confidential treatment for the Exhibit on the basis that it contains confidential commercial information, technical data and trade secrets concerning CenturyLink services under development and related testing processes, all of which CenturyLink customarily guards from public disclosure,” CenturyLink said.
Besides the 3.4-3.7 GHz bands, CenturyLink is looking at how it might work with other network service providers rolling out future 5G wireless networks.
Glen Post, CEO of CenturyLink, told investors during the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in September that it would be open to such partnerships to accelerate the speed at which it is rolling out service to rural areas under the CAF-II program.
“On the wireless side, we want to partner with 5G providers and other wireless providers where we can bring higher speeds to customers at less costs,” Post said. “If some of the proposed wireless build-outs occur in the CAF-II areas we cover, we think it will be a lower-cost opportunity to reach those customers and cover higher speeds for a lot more customers with that type of technology.”
CenturyLink joins several other rural-centric providers like Frontier, Consolidated and Windstream are seeing similar potential. As we’ve previously noted, AT&T’s rural wireless broadband recently added 9 more states.
Frontier confirmed it was conducting tests of how it can use fixed wireless to address the broadband availability problem in very rural areas via the FCC’s CAF-II funds.
Frontier joined Consolidated and Windstream in a joint FCC filing (PDF) related to a request to create flexible use of spectrum bands between 3.7 and 24 GHz.
Consolidated and Windstream also expressed interest in being able to use 3.7-4.2 GHz band spectrum for rural fixed point-to-multipoint deployments, such as through the rules proposed by the Broadband Access Coalition.
The service providers said that these spectrum bands would “provide another key tool in the toolbox to reach the hardest to serve rural Americans.”