All has been quiet on the integrated access and backhaul (IAB) front for a while. But today, Verana Networks says that Verizon will trial its 5G IAB technology on its millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, later this year.
IAB, in a nutshell, means that an operator dedicates a portion of its spectrum resources for wireless backhaul. This saves the operator from the expense of having to deploy fiber to every base station for backhaul. The downside is that the operator must sacrifice some of its spectrum that would normally be used for mobile access.
Amit Jain, chief commercial officer of Verana Networks, told Fierce that IAB is especially useful with mmWave spectrum. This is because mmWave has limited range, so operators, such as Verizon, have to build a lot of small cell sites to use mmWave for their 5G mobile service.
But a lot of small cell sites require a lot of fiber if fiber is chosen as the backhaul technology.
And mmWave spectrum is often used in dense urban areas to increase capacity. But those locations are places where it’s especially disruptive and expensive to deploy fiber.
“Millimeter wave spectrum is abundant and inexpensive, but providing 5G coverage using this spectrum is cost-prohibitive today,” said Vedat Eyuboglu, CEO and co-founder of Verana Networks, in a statemet. “To transform the economics of mmWave 5G deployment, Verana is building a mmWave 5G RAN solution with integrated multi-hop wireless self-backhaul.”
Verana’s technology includes the radio hardware and software as well as IAB. “We also provide a software CU and our management system; basically a complete 5G RAN,” said Jain.
Verana’s IAB is a “multi-hop” backhaul. Jain explained that an operator would set up a first cell site connected to fiber. Then the radio on that site is able to search for other nearby Verana radios and provide wireless backhaul to those. And those radios can, in turn, search for other nearby radios. “It helps you take the capacity of site and spread over a large area,” he said.
Jain said mmWave is well-suited for IAB because the spectrum “creates narrow beams.” This enables the carrier to dedicate spectrum resources efficiently to provide just what’s needed for backhaul.
Asked about the reach of the backhaul before it starts to degrade, Jain said "it depends if you have line-of-site.” Each hop can be over a kilometer.
Verizon’s focus to date has been to use mmWave in high density areas. But Jain said Verana also thinks its technology will work well on mmWave for fixed wireless access (FWA) services in less dense areas.
Jain said to his knowledge, no one else in the telecom industry is building an IAB solution for mmWave at this time.
Verizon plans to do a field trial with Verana’s technology later this year.
Bill Stone, VP of technology and planning at Verizon, stated: “Millimeter wave spectrum is the foundation of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service, providing faster speeds and massive bandwidth. Verana’s multi-hop IAB solution promises to enhance our 5G network performance even more.”
Verizon’s venture capital arm, Verizon Ventures, is also a strategic investor in Verana.
Verana has conducted two rounds of funding, raising $43 million to date, and Verizon Ventures invested in both rounds.