Cambium embraces 60 GHz, Wi-Fi 6 for multi-gigabit connectivity

Cambium Networks recently announced new Wi-Fi 6 products alongside 60 GHz-supported solutions coming this summer that are meant to deliver multi-gigabit last mile connectivity at a lower cost of ownership.

Atul Bhatnagar, CEO of Illinois-based Cambium, told FierceWireless that over the last three months during the COVID-19 pandemic, if one thing has become clear, it’s that broadband connectivity is a life-line, further reinforcing the company’s mission of connecting the unconnected.

Cambium was born out of Motorola in 2011, with deep RF expertise in the fixed wireless broadband point-to-point category. It targets providers including those serving rural, enterprise and industrial customers but is increasingly focused on urban and suburban segments as well. Cambium has more than 6,800 channel partners and at the end of 2019 had shipped more than 7.4 million units.

Cambium is fortifying its wireless products by introducing a new multi-gigabit wireless fabric, according to Bhatnagar, which in some ways can deliver fiber-like speeds more affordably, specifically at the edge.

The 60 GHz mmWave solutions coming this summer combined with new Wi-Fi 6 products are designed for the last few miles where you now “have multi-gigabit capability for the first time.”

This includes delivering those speeds to enterprises, industrial complexes, or homes without the need to dig trenches for fiber.

The Wi-Fi 6 solutions include two wireless access points, six multi-gigabit switches, and enhanced cloud-based software meant to simplify network design and deployment.

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According to Cambium, the Wi-Fi 6 products, based on a software-defined radio architecture, dramatically improve Wi-Fi speeds while lowering ownership costs by up to 30% compared to competitive products. In part that’s because of the increased number of clients that customers can support, with more throughput and more air capacity, Bhatnager said. They’re designed with as much zero-touch as possible, meaning less maintenance and truck rolls, with management via a single dashboard in the cloud.

For fixed wireless applications, service providers like Verizon have started limited rollouts of 5G fixed wireless service over licensed spectrum. However, fixed wireless using unlicensed spectrum has already been serving mid-sized cities and markets on a global scale.

Bhatnagar acknowledged that for mobility and mission critical applications, people will still go for licensed. Still, with many working from home, fast, affordable connectivity has become increasingly vital.  

“The main thing fixed wireless broadband does is it provides fantastic performance at a very affordable price,” he said, adding that Cambium’s solutions deal with the RF noise and tough terrain.

In terms of 60 GHz in the U.S., the FCC allocated millimeter wave spectrum in the band for unlicensed use, though in some countries, it will be lightly licensed.

“You’ll see different strategies, but it [60 GHz] supplements very well with Wi-Fi 6,” Bhatnagar said. The new 60 GHz chips coming out use the latest standards and advancements, which he thinks will accelerate the proliferation of 60 GHz.

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60 GHz-supported products coupled with Wi-Fi 6 is also giving a push, both built with multigigabit architecture. A key focus for Cambium’s product launch is removing the silo between fixed wireless and Wi-Fi technologies. They use Wi-Fi 6 for local area network (LAN) convergence with 60 GHz tech for wide area networks (WAN), which can be managed as a single network through a cloud-based software management dashboard.

“You have the LAN and WAN convergence that are for the edge,” and represent a kind of hand-in-glove working together, Bhatnagar explained. “That combination will also accelerate the adoption [of 60 GHz].”

Earlier this year a group of companies including Qualcomm, Facebook and Google, urged the FCC to improve its regulatory framework for unlicensed use in the 60 GHz band, in response to multiple companies seeking waivers to operate unlicensed radar equipment at power levels higher than currently allowed.

Qualcomm had already been active in developing technology for the 60 GHz band, including chips for 802.11ad, or WiGig. Cambium uses Qualcomm wireless technology in its new products, including the Qualcomm Networking Pro Series Platforms.

RELATED: Qualcomm unveils 60 GHz Wi-Fi chipsets for WiGig devices

“Qualcomm Technologies continues to collaborate with customers like Cambium to realize a fresh vision for a truly ubiquitous wireless network,” said Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity at Qualcomm Technologies, in a statement. “We see innovative approaches blending next generation backhaul-to-fronthaul technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and 60GHz Wi-Fi as key to enabling a new era of connected experiences even in the most challenging conditions.”

Results from a Cambium conducted customer survey show interest in 60 GHz appears to be growing for Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs). When asked which 60 GHz applications are most attractive, 57% said fixed wireless access (FWA) for business or enterprise, while 45% named FWA for residential applications. Other opportunities include 60 GHz for Wi-Fi backhaul (30%) and small cell backhaul (28%).