Startup Movandi completed a successful demo on Verizon’s 5G network, showcasing how its repeater technology can expand millimeter wave for connected vehicles and C-V2X applications.
Driving 1.4 kilometers on a city street in San Jose, California with a Movandi-powered indoor BeamXR repeater installed in-vehicle, a mobile device hit average throughput of 1.5 Gbps for 10-times performance gains compared to that without a repeater. It achieved 25-times throughput improvement over typical 4G LTE performance.
Maryam Rofougaran CEO and co-founder of Movandi told Fierce that the technology used in the demo is essentially the same as what’s already been commercially deployed in the field (including by Verizon). It helps amplify signals and addresses penetration issues, with programmability built in. With the demo, the company wants to ensure robustness and reliability, while showcasing usability of its tech for other applications like automotive.
Movandi tailors the 5G repeater as a complete system and co-designs the RF chipset, DSP functions, beamforming and algorithms. It partnered with software company Airfide Networks to create the handoff algorithm that ensures effective rapid signal transfers while a car is on the move.
Verizon has used Movandi-powered repeaters to help extend the reach of its 5G mmWave network, along with other vendors like Pivotal Commware.
Millimeter wave spectrum offers high bandwidth for advanced automotive applications but known challenges with things like penetration, signal reach, and limited availability could be barriers for getting an in-car signal. Finding a 5G mmWave signal outdoors is already a difficult task itself, with very limited coverage. Recent Opensignal data showed users connected to mmWave 5G less than 1% of the time across each of the three major U.S. carriers.
“If you’re inside the car and there’s no repeater you really have to be very close to the base station to get any kind of connection,” Rofougaran said.
However, with the BeamXR installed, connectivity, high-throughput and low latency were maintained for more than 1 kilometer on the road with average speeds of 1.5 Gbps. A video of the demo is below.
According to Movandi, mmWave base stations, or gNodeB’s, are typically spaced about 500 meters apart. With repeater tech in the car, mmWave signal handoffs happened seamlessly – delivering gigabit speeds, with outdoor access points spaced 1,000 meters or more from each other.
Part of mmWave’s limited coverage is tied to the time and expense associated with deploying fiber-fed small cells. By deploying a combination of indoor, outdoor and potentially in-vehicle repeaters, carriers would have multiple points to help extend the network and then could reduce the number of 5G small cells, or roadside infrastructure, needed for broader mmWave coverage.
While the recent trial was more a proof-of-concept, Rofougaran envisions Movandi powering a product initially that could act like a hotspot sold today, with 5G mmWave cellular and Wi-Fi for mobile users.
But it’s not just about accessing the macro 5G network to get smartphones connected in the car. Movandi’s also looking ahead at how its technology can help connected cars of the future, as they move toward autonomous driving. Eventually she said it would be more of an integrated solution and thinks within a few years it makes sense to be built-in by auto manufacturers. And because cost of the repeaters is economical, there could be more than one within a single vehicle, she added.
There is sub-6 GHz spectrum allocated in the U.S. specifically for C-V2X technology, with the Federal Communications Commission opening access to a portion of the 5.9 GHz band.
Still, mmWave paired with repeaters can deliver super-low latency and high bandwidth. Rofougaran said mmWave going to be needed to handle huge amounts of data in-vehicle from things like cameras and sensors, as well as connecting with other vehicles and infrastructure via C-V2X where safety is a critical application.
Moor Insights and Strategy Principal Analyst Patrick Moorhead, in Movandi’s announcement, pointed to the need for increased deployments to capitalize on the potential of mmWave 5G for C-V2X
“Broader deployment of high-performance, low-latency mmWave technology is a key component to expanding 5G adoption for connected and autonomous vehicles,” stated Moorhead, adding that 5G mmWave solutions will enable a variety of C-V2X applications in the coming years. “Automotive systems will communicate with each other and with gNB infrastructure, greatly enhancing road safety, improving traffic flow and enabling autonomous driving.”