Arqiva and Samsung start 5G fixed wireless access trial in London
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
The 5G FWA trial on display at Arqiva's headquarters in London. The binoculars are there to allow observers to see the radio access equipment situated 230 metres away

Arqiva and Samsung Electronics have today (25 July) brought what they claim is the first live trial of 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) technology in the UK and Europe online in central London.

The two companies' trial uses Samsung’s 5G network solution and customer premises equipment (CPE) and Arqiva’s 28 GHz millimetre wave spectrum – it holds a total of 600 MHz in London. The trial’s aim is to demonstrate the stability of the FWA service and its potential as a fast-to-market and cost-effective alternative to fibre to the premises (FTTP) for homes and businesses.

The trial has three main components: A radio access unit, a CPE (which like a Wi-Fi router can be installed by customers) and Samsung’s virtualized core. The radio access unit is located on the rooftop of Arqiva’s Fitzrovia office and wireless links to the CPE (which is easy to install). The CPE is located by a window inside Arqiva’s nearby headquarters, 230 metres away, and the connectivity is being used to stream four 4K HD channels and virtual reality displays to demonstrate some possible use cases of the technology. Samsung’s virtualized core is responsible for managing user connections and data routing from Arqiva’s network to the internet – which is running on Arqiva's data centre servers.

The system uses intelligent beam-forming technology combined with the high bandwidth available at millimetre wave frequencies to provide what has been shown to be a stable two-way link with download speeds of around 1GBps at the CPE – enough capacity to allows the simultaneous streaming of more than 25 UHD 4K TV channels.

The trial will run for four months and the companies intend to show it to UK government representatives, MNOs, fixed network companies and others. They are also planning to extend the trial’s coverage to other nearby buildings. The showcase consists of a series of six stations. These include an overview of FWA technology and how it works, examples of 5G use cases, demonstrations of 4K UHD and Virtual Reality (VR) content streaming, and a look at possible applications of 5G in the future.

The commercial use of FWA is expected to involve lamppost or other street furniture mounted fibre-served compact access units, which will then provide reliable GBps service to premises.

Paul Kyungwhoon Cheun, executive vice president and head of the Next Generation Communications Business Team at Samsung, said: “One of the most exciting prospects that 5G is expected to bring to the table is the exploration of powerful new use cases outside of traditional smart device mobile connectivity. Our trial efforts with Arqiva give us the chance to demonstrate this first hand, and we view this demonstration as a door-opener for new and compelling connected service opportunities in the UK, Europe and worldwide.”

Simon Beresford-Wylie, CEO of Arqiva, said: “This trial is the first of its kind in Europe, let alone the UK – and we are hugely excited about the high data rates, low latency and growth potential we’re going to be able to demonstrate. Though only a proof of concept at this stage, we are confident that this trial with Samsung will showcase not only 5G FWA’s potential for delivering ultrafast broadband but also the value of the 28GHz band in helping achieve this.

“We’ve seen a great level of response so far from our entire customer base, including leading mobile operators, fixed broadband providers, broadcasters and media companies. This trial will be particularly interesting for this audience as it looks to a future of ubiquitous UHD, and the file sizes that go with it.”

“There are a couple of things that make FWA potentially compelling,“ he said, while briefing journalists at Arqiva’s headquarters. “The first indications [are] that it will be likely be 20-40 per cent less costly than pulling the fibre all the way to a house. Secondly, because its wireless, the speed to deploy will be quicker.”

Beresford-Wylie added that of the 33 London Boroughs (including the City of London), of the 16 that have come to market with wireless concessions, Arqiva has entered into agreements with 14, “which gives us access to all the street furniture including lampposts.” Beresford-Wylie noted that one issue that impacts on the cost and time required to deploy both FWA and small cells (which Arqiva is currently deploying in the UK), is planning permission, adding that in an ideal world, one planning application would be needed for all installations with the same form factor and height above street level.

Woojune Kim, senior vice president of Samsung Electronics’ Next Generation Communications Business Team, noted that one of the biggest problems is the speed bottleneck created by Wi-Fi connections and that the FWA link can work at distances of up to a kilometre. He explained that the radio access unit can deliver 7-10GBps of throughput and while the CPE’s modem can handle 4-5MBps, its Wi-Fi connection is limited to around 1GBps.

Kim also noted that standardisation is less of an issue for MNOs in the fixed wireless access sector because of the lack of roaming considerations, meaning that proprietary technology is less of a concern provided it meets operators' price and performance requirements and can be deployed in the timescales they require.

Jonathan Freeman, product and technical director at Arqiva, highlighted the fact that the service is less vulnerable to disruption caused by road works compared to fibre to the premises. “You don’t want to be relying on a single source. Even if you dual-source your fibre, there’s still a risk of cables getting cut and the network going down,” hence the idea of using FWA as a back-up resilience service. He added that FWA users might find that it delivers lower latency than a FTTP connection.

Freeman believes this technology has come at the right point in the UK’s adoption of high speed connectivity, pointing to the difficulties experienced over in Australia in terms of fibre roll-out. Freeman said that one potential use case for FWA is the UK’s SME sector, especially those renting space or a shared office block on a short-term basis. “for the growing SME community in the UK, this would be great way of getting high speed connectivity without the lock-in and wait [associated with FTTP].

Kim highlighted the potential for 5G to provide high speed connectivity to passengers on trains and buses and told that Land Mobile that Samsung’s CEO is very interested in using 5G to bring it to aeroplane passengers as well.He added that the company’s engineers have calculated that European airspace could be served by a few thousand 5G base stations. However, Kim also noted the significant barriers posed by the slow speed at which the aerospace industry adopts technology.

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