CommScope targets easy C-band upgrades with new antennas

Some of CommScope's new products are commercially available now, with others to be released in the coming months. (Getty Images)

CommScope this week introduced new antenna solutions that aim to make C-band upgrades easier for operators.

For C-band antennas, CommScope says it can support three main upgrade paths, two of which allow operators to replace an existing multi-band antenna with one that also includes C-band support. The added C-band functionality doesn’t change the size of the antenna, which the vendor said avoids structural site changes that can be expensive or result in higher site leasing fees.

Specifically, it’s offering a multi-band passive antenna that supports low-, mid-, and C-band within a single housing; and a modular antenna configuration option including mid-band, full length low band arrays and filed-replaceable module with C-band support through a 64T64R active antenna unit or 8T8R passive antenna.

RELATED: C-band focus turns to densification

Commenting in the announcement, Mobile Experts’ Joe Madden noted the importance of antenna size for C-band upgrades.

“The industry faces a major challenge in C-band deployment, as multi-band antennas that cover existing LTE bands and new 5G bands have been extremely large,” said Madden, founder and chief Analyst for Mobile Experts, in a statement. “The operators are looking for solutions that shrink the size of a multi-band antenna for C-band site upgrades.”

CommScope’s new products also support a standalone passive or active C-band antenna setup.

ABI Research Senior Analyst Johanna Alvarado, commenting in the release, also lent credence to modular antennas.

“Modular antennas for 5G in C-band are no doubt an enabler for operators to deploy 5G at a faster pace, especially when they can enable new frequencies and also support legacy technologies,” Alvarado stated. “The new CommScope modular antenna will help operators to reduce cell-site clutter and simplify planning applications processes that are arguably major challenges in deploying nationwide 5G networks.”

In the U.S. the first tranche of C-band spectrum for 5G is expected to be cleared in late 2021, and AT&T and Verizon each have deployment plans once the first batch becomes available.  Initially that includes overlaying C-band on existing macro sites. 

AT&T last week disclosed plans to use Nokia’s C-band portfolio, including Massive MIMO antenna solutions, macro remote radio heads (RRH) and AirScale baseband gear.

As for CommScope, alongside C-band, the vendor’s also offering new antenna products for CBRS, with support for sub-6 GHz bands.  The CBRS antenna portfolio boasted optimized pattern options and twin-beam technology it says effectively doubles cell site capacity and enables six-sector deployment at a lower cost.

Some of the products are commercially available now, with others to be released in the coming months.

To reduce wind load, CommScope has added a 360-degree design to optimize wind flow all around the antennas, aiming to reduce costs and negative impacts of wind loading.  That design will be part of the vendor’s global antenna portfolio.

CommScope also unveiled low-band RF customizable combiners for the 700 MHz band. They’re targeting operators in Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, with support for new bands without the need for additional base station antennas or increased tower weight.

U.K. operators just got their hands on new 700 MHz spectrum following a three-day auction, as well as spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band.   

“Operators will continue to accelerate their rollouts of 5G networks in 2021 while governments across the globe clear additional spectrum to accommodate more mobile users and data,” said Farid Firouzbakht, senior vice president of Outdoor Wireless Networks, at CommScope in a statement. “Our new antenna solutions make it simpler, faster and more cost-effective for wireless operators to build their 5G networks across the spectrum.”