Watch Communications taps Ericsson EPC, readies for rural 5G

Watch will use Ericsson's Network Manager solution to monitor both its radio and packet core networks through the same interface. (Pixabay)

Watch Communications has expanded its relationship with Ericsson, tapping the telecom equipment vendor to supply its 5G-ready Evolved Packet Core (EPC) for fixed wireless in rural parts of the Midwest.    

Ericsson will provide its 3GPP-standardized cloud packet core for 4G service in Watch markets in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Down the line, this will enable Watch to scale its fixed wireless access (FWA) network to 5G non-standalone, according to the vendor, though no specific date was disclosed.

This expands on the companies’ existing relationship, announced in October 2019, to build a rural FWA network using Ericsson’s radio software and hardware. That partnership is part of Watch’s $53 million project subsidized by the Connect America Fund II (CAF-II) to expand internet access in underserved areas of Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

RELATED: Ericsson lands Nex-Tech contract for 5G EPC, RAN in Kansas

Watch will continue to use Ericsson's Network Manager solution to monitor both its radio and packet core networks, which can be done through the same interface.

"As we build our fixed wireless access network, it's important to have partners like Ericsson support us,” said Chris Daniels, president and CEO of Watch Communications, in a statement. “By leveraging Ericsson's end-to-end solutions, we are delivering faster speeds to our customers and ensuring that everyone is ready for 5G."

In announcing their first partnership last year, Watch indicated it would use both Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and licensed spectrum, leveraging Ericsson’s 4x4 and 64x64 Massive MIMO solutions for fixed LTE services.

RELATED: Why small wireless carriers care about all the CBRS hullabaloo

Watch Communications started out as a cable TV provider serving customers in Ohio, but later expanded to internet, focused on fiber and wireless broadband. It also offers TV hosting and VoIP phone services to residential and business customers in underserved communities.

Earlier this month Ericsson inked a 5G deal with Nex-Tech Wireless to provide its 5G EPC and radio access network (RAN) technology for the carrier’s 5G NR non-standalone (NSA) deployments in Kansas.

Nex-Tech plans to launch 5G service by the third quarter of 2020, initially leaning on its 600 MHz spectrum holdings. The operator is evaluating deployments of its 24 GHz and 28 GHz millimeter wave spectrum for things like mobility hot spots to support in-building coverage and special events.

Nex-Tech is also using Ericsson’s Spectrum Sharing technology, enabling a smoother transition to 5G.