Verizon and Ericsson recently completed a proof-of-concept trial using new Integrated Access Backhaul technology to deploy Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service, eliminating the need to wait for fiber installations.
Fiber-optic cables, which serve as the circulatory system of a network to transfer data between cell sites and the network’s core, are critical in wireless networks, and Verizon has bet big on fiber.
In fact, Verizon has invested billions of dollars acquiring fiber assets and building out our multi-purpose fiber footprint. Still, working through local regulations and licensing, and then subsequently installing fiber can have very long lead times.
So Verizon and Ericsson engineers have found an alternative way of using millimeter wave spectrum for backhaul to accelerate deployment of 5G networks while awaiting the necessary fiber deployment.
“Fiber is the ideal connection between our network facilities. It carries a ton of data, is reliable, and has a long roadmap ahead as far as technological advancements. It is essential. However, this new IAB technology allows us to deploy 5G service more quickly and then fill in the essential fiber at a later time,” said Bill Stone, Vice President of Planning for Verizon.
IAB works by using airlink connections over mmWave spectrum instead of a fiber connection to send data throughout the network. By dynamically allocating a portion of bandwidth for consumers to send their data from their device to the cell tower, and using another portion for that data to be sent from the cell tower back to the core of the network, the need for fiber initially can be circumvented.
Then, when fiber is installed at that location, the data being sent back to the rest of the network can be switched over to the fiber and the bandwidth can be redistributed for more capacity for customers.
“Ericsson’s microwave and fiber mobile transport solutions are an important enabler for 5G services,” said Ulf Forssen, Head of Standards & Technology, Development Unit Networks, Ericsson. “This IAB proof of concept demonstrates a complementary solution, enabling faster deployment of the high-quality, high-performance 5G transport needed in a 5G world.”
New resources for first responders
In addition to bringing new cell sites on air more efficiently, this proof-of-concept trial showed that mobile cell sites can also be connected using IAB.
This becomes a critical asset for first responders and public safety agencies who need temporary cell coverage for search and rescue operations, disaster recovery efforts or other emergency situations. Verizon owns a fleet of mobile cell sites which are regularly deployed for these situations. However, until recently they have required a fiber connection to carry data, restricting where they can be deployed, or a satellite connection, which are limited and costly. Now, with IAB technology, coupled with portable generators for power, cell sites can be deployed more rapidly and to a wider range of locations.
“When our first responders need us, we will be there with the resources they need to accomplish their mission critical work,” said Stone. “IAB technology gives us many more options to ensure communications resources are where our first responders need them anytime they call on us.”