Dish exploring 5G options, including Artemis’ pCell technology

pwave mini daisy chain (Artemis)
pWave Mini base stations can be daisy-chained into cables that look just like cable TV cables. (Image: Artemis Networks)

Artemis Networks, a startup that has been trying to disrupt the wireless space with its pCell software defined radio (SDR) technology, is finally getting some validation, with Dish Network not only supporting its endeavors but also showcasing them in its booth at CES.

Artemis is currently leasing certain H-Block mobile spectrum from satellite TV provider Dish in the San Francisco area as part of indoor and outdoor trials of pCell LTE technology. Dish and Artemis have discussed the possibility of expanding to additional geographic licenses for future trials. Meanwhile, live pCell demos are being staged at Dish’s booth at CES in Las Vegas this week.

“Dish and Artemis are aligned in the vision of developing 5G technologies to deliver ubiquitous, fast, and reliable wireless connectivity,” said Tom Cullen, Dish executive vice president of corporate development, in a press release. “We are investigating 5G options for our spectrum portfolio, which includes the support of pioneering endeavors like Artemis.”

RELATED: Artemis leases Dish's H Block spectrum to build a live, commercial pCell network in San Fran

Cable companies make no secret of their intentions to play in the 5G space, with companies like Comcast pledging to make 5G work and Charter Communications talking about plans to develop 5G-type technologies and applying for FCC permission to conduct tests in millimeter wave spectrum bands. Artemis founder and CEO Steve Perlman said the company is happy to work with anyone—not only cable companies but also mobile network operators, wireless ISPs (WISPs), MVNOs and others. Dish, for one, has been amassing spectrum over the years, prompting questions about when and how it will eventually use it.

But firming up its connections with Dish is not the only thing Artemis is celebrating these days. It’s also introducing the pWave Mini, a much smaller version of its technology that interests cable companies because it can be used much the way they string cable. The smaller size means it won’t be required to go through the siting processes that its larger iteration requires. Artemis’ first product was nine inches wide.

pwave chart

At 15 mm in width, the pWave Mini base stations can be daisy-chained into cables that look just like cable TV cables, so they can be deployed anywhere a cable can be deployed—hidden on rooftops, along buildings, on streetlights or strung between utility poles or in homes, offices or stadiums. Perlman said they emit no more power than a home Wi-Fi router and are far less expensive to deploy or operate than conventional LTE technology—and they’ll also work with existing handsets and devices already in the market.

Perlman said it’s almost like the old days when mainframes dominated the computer industry. Nowadays, “existing cellular systems are very much like mainframes, and we’re like the Apple II,” he said.

RELATED: Nokia Networks plans to trial Artemis Networks' pCell technology with carriers

To describe how the company was able to fashion the technology the size of the pWave Mini, Perlman likes to borrow a phrase from the movie “The Martian” and says “we had to science the sh** out of it,” removing basic functions that many people would consider standard in radios and rethinking how to make up for them in software.

For example, GPS is included in a lot of radios, but it takes up a lot of space and doesn’t work indoors, so they pulled that out. They fiddled with mathematics and rethought the way radio waves work. And what they came up with is nothing short of what Perlman describes as the highest performance, highest density 5G technology in the world. It will support multiple protocols and promises to deliver over 50x conventional LTE spectral efficiency on iPhones, Android, iPad and LTE routers, with the ability to work at any frequency from 600 MHz to 6 GHz and with licensed or unlicensed spectrum.

They also got the cost down to what should amount to less than $100 each in volume, so a newcomer to wireless could conceivably use Mini pCell technology to set up shop without having to build out a big costly network. “Anybody can deploy it,” Perlman told FierceWirelessTech.

Granted, Artemis has won recognition prior to Dish's moves. WebPass, the point-to-point fixed wireless provider that Google Fiber bought in 2016, as well as Nokia’s networks division, have deployed pWave technology. WebPass is a WISP and it’s not set up like a Verizon, but it is deploying something that will support MVNOs at higher density and lower cost, Perlman said.

Artemis has about 12 employees, but it works with a lot of contractors and ultraspecialists. Once the subject of naysayers from the academic community, Artemis has now won the respect of some leading experts in academia and is working with them.

Jim Chiddix, former Time Warner Cable CTO, is an Artemis advisory board member. “Reducing high-density 5G wireless deployment to standard cable deployment with the pWave Mini is a game-changer for both mobile and fixed wireless,” he said in the press release. “Now, any ISP—from the largest to the smallest—can rapidly deploy high-density pCell 5G LTE and Fixed wireless by using well-established cable deployment practices.”