Pivotal Commware, the Seattle-area startup whose repeaters are being used by Verizon to boost millimeter wave (mmWave) performance, is asking for FCC permission to conduct tests of its holographic beam forming (HBF) antenna technology in the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) band.
This isn’t the first time Pivotal is applying its HBF to mid-band spectrum. In fact, the company’s first commercial engagements were all in sub-6 GHz bands, and the technology performs equally well in those bands.
“We have always maintained development programs for the low and mid-band spectrum,” said Pivotal CEO Brian Deutsch.
According to Deutsch, Pivotal’s work at 3.5 GHz is specifically to address the power limitations of CBRS – using HBF to help overcome similar propagation issues that exist in mmWave. Stakeholders often have complained about the power limitations of CBRS, both in the General Authorized Access (GAA) unlicensed portion of the band and the Priority Access Licenses (PALs), which were just auctioned off this past summer.
“This ‘goldilocks’ spectrum is not without its challenges,” Deutsch said via email. “Pivotal is well positioned to understand these challenges and offer the best solutions to overcome them. This is not limited to a single operator and will be useful for both PAL and GAA CBRS spectrum and also C-band when it becomes available.”
Verizon comes to mind when talking about the 3.5 GHz band because it was a big spender in the PAL auction and it’s been making the most of GAA spectrum. Plus, it’s the carrier in most dire need of mid-band spectrum for 5G. It’s expected to play aggressively in the upcoming C-band auction of 3.7–3.98 GHz.
According to its pending application with the FCC, Pivotal plans to use its experimental authority to test, perform demonstrations and undertake limited market trials of its HBF technology in the CBRS band. The estimated duration of the experiments is 36 months.
Based in Kirkland, Washington, Pivotal Commware announced its initial $17 million round of funding in 2017, with lead investors that included Bill Gates. It’s the fourth spin-out from Intellectual Ventures (IV) based on metamaterials; another in that category is Kymeta, the satellite technology company that launched in 2012.
Last fall, Pivotal set up a staging area at the Luxe Hotel during Mobile World Congress Los Angeles to show how it could bend a 28 GHz signal so as to capture it and transfer it to a room inside the facility. The goal was to show how it can gently flood an interior of a room with 5G rather than using a narrow spotlight-type of beam.