Verizon adds more repeaters to its 5G repertoire

Verizon is adding signal repeaters from FRTek and SureCall to give a boost to its 5G Ultra Wideband service, which uses the millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies to deliver super-fast speeds.

mmWave offers great capacity and speed but has that well-known problem with coverage; the signals don’t travel far or penetrate structures like lower-band spectrum does. So, the repeaters are useful for all those folks working or studying from home during the pandemic. 

However, Verizon points out that its mobility, home and business customers will all benefit from the extended coverage resulting from the current deployment of these repeaters.

Verizon’s current 5G Home and Business Internet offerings use mmWave, as does its 5G Ultra Wideband service. Its 5G Nationwide service uses Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), based on the 3GPP standard, that taps into lower spectrum bands for coverage.

Wireless operators haven’t always been big fans of repeaters, with their beef being centered around interference to their networks. However, in the 5G era, smarter technologies are making them more attractive for higher spectrum bands.  

The repeaters that Verizon is using are being deployed outside to help with in-building coverage - especially in multi-unit dwellings, so they’ll amplify the signals outside in order to penetrate into larger, denser buildings. 

According to Verizon, repeaters are especially beneficial in dense urban areas with multiple buildings and floors like apartment buildings and dormitories. The repeater takes signals from nearby cell sites and amplifies them to target previously underserved areas.  

Small cells are one way to extend coverage at mmWave; repeaters are another, and they don’t require a fiber connection. They’re also small and consume less energy than small cells.

“Since initially launching 5G service more than two years ago, we have more than doubled coverage in many of our initial mmWave markets by adding significantly more small cells. Now, by deploying signal repeaters to bolster the existing network’s performance, we will continue to extend the service of our 5G Ultra Wideband network in a cost-effective, fast and efficient way, extending service to even more customers,” said Adam Koeppe, senior vice president of Planning and Technology for Verizon, in a statement. “It’s a great addition to our robust network design.”

SureCall, based in Fremont, California, says its patent-pending signal booster, called Horizon, complements base stations as part of the wider network buildout. Although it claims to provide the largest coverage footprint based on FCC test results, it’s also power efficient enough to run on solar with no connection to the power grid.

FRTek’s repeater technology, PrimAer, can provide coverage both indoors and outside, with the capability to daisy chain remotes. The company is based in South Korea and was founded in 2000.

RELATED: Pivotal takes ‘lemons’ out of mmWave to improve coverage

Verizon previously announced that it’s using repeater tech from Pivotal Commware, a company backed by Bill Gates that uses Holographic Beam Forming technology. Pivotal closed a $50 million C round earlier this year.