Pivotal Commware this week announced general commercial availability of its Pivot 5G, a “smart” network repeater that redirects and extends coverage outdoors.
Pivotal, a startup with the backing of Bill Gates, has been supplying products to Verizon, but with this announcement, it’s making its Pivot 5G repeater commercially available to all operators domestic and international.
It’s one component of the company’s millimeter wave (mmWave) solutions that are based on Holographic Beam Forming (HBF), which it says solves mmWave’s “most vexing challenges,” turning perceived weaknesses of the higher band spectrum into strengths. According to Pivotal, HBF offers significant advantages over legacy signal beaming systems when it comes to cost, size, weight and power consumption.
The company has been talking a lot about its Echo product, a smart indoor repeater that “gently floods” mmWave coverage indoors, as well as the Pivot 5G outdoor repeater and its cloud-native Intelligent Beam Management System (IBMS). The IBMS uses machine learning to obtain insights and optimize a network in real time.
But it also offers WaveScape, a propagation analysis and network design tool that provides network operators with information about the best place to put elements like repeaters and base stations for optimal coverage and performance. Thus, it can optimize network connectivity while minimizing total cost of ownership.
When designing its solutions, Pivotal looked at other products on the market, which were fine for sub 6 GHz deployments, but precision is everything when it comes to mmWave spectrum, according to Pivotal Commware CEO Brian Deutsch. Most mmWave deployments in the U.S. thus far have been in the 28 and 39 GHz bands.
Deutsch says deploying Pivot gear costs about a fraction of using fiber-based gNodeB units. The research firm Mobile Experts calculates that repeaters can save operators more than 70% of the cost of alternatives. The Pivot, which is the size of a traffic camera, can easily hang from a power pole or similar structure, according to Deutsch.
Using WaveScape, an operator can look at a neighborhood and figure out where to position the hardware in order to get the biggest bang for the buck. For example, if a Pivot is placed on the corner of First and Elm streets, an operator can cover X number of apartment buildings and calculate the number of potential new subscribers passed in those residences.
It leads to lower costs for the operator, Deutsch said. “If we take that beam and we kind of cleverly position it in a very deterministic fashion around a neighborhood,” and use geographic and other pieces of data such as throughput availability, “we can cross reference the data” and provide information on the best placement.
Verizon is one operator that is using Pivotal mmWave products as part of its 5G Ultra Wideband network. Verizon ended 2020 covering 230 million people with its Nationwide 5G, which uses lower-band spectrum. Its Ultra Wideband service, which uses the mmWave frequencies, was available in parts of 61 cities, with its 5G Home service in 12 markets.
This week, Verizon announced that its 5G Home Internet service is expanding to parts of six new markets: Miami, San Francisco, St. Louis, Phoenix, Anaheim and Arlington, Texas. Meanwhile, customers in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Columbia, South Carolina; and Knoxville, Tennessee will get access to the Ultra Wideband network later this month.
Verizon often points out that it’s building its Ultra Wideband mmWave network for mobility first, and the fixed wireless access (FWA) Home offering is sort of like the icing on the cake or a second sales vehicle for the network. It doesn’t have to spend more on the network to provide the Home service, which it’s worked to perfect over the past couple years so that it’s self-installable. The goal is for the majority of customers to be able to install it in less than an hour.
Pivotal isn’t naming any other carriers but sees growing interest in mmWave around the world, including Australia, Japan and South Korea. “All of them know us very well,” Deutsch said, including other carriers in the U.S. (T-Mobile, based in Bellevue, Washington, is right down the street from Pivotal’s Kirkland, Washington-based offices, but Deutsch isn’t saying anything about what, if anything, they’re doing together.)