The renaissance, so to speak, that’s happening with fixed wireless access (FWA) in the U.S. isn’t lost on Airspan Networks, which cut its teeth on FWA some 20 years ago.
One of the early WiMAX players, Airspan understands the space very well—a space that big players like Verizon are increasingly focused on with the advent of 5G.
“I think in 5G, cord cutting is a real possibility,” because of the bandwidth, low latency and applications that 5G enables, especially in areas like gaming and VR/AR applications, said Damiano Coletti, VP of Strategy and Marketing at Airspan.
Renaissance is one way to describe what’s happening with fixed wireless. However, “I don’t think it ever really died,” he told FierceWireless. “There’s always been a need for fixed wireless access for rural broadband” and in public safety applications. "There’s always been a niche in the market for it. I think it has a lot of room to grow now.”
Last year, Airspan acquired Mimosa, a supplier of FWA gear to Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) that serve rural and regional areas. Mimosa developed an award-winning point-to-point and point-to-multipoint fixed wireless portfolio. A lot of the core team, especially from a technical perspective, remains with Airspan, which has able to make the Mimosa products available to its existing customer base, including in the Far East, according to Coletti.
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Airspan is also boasting some high-profile customer wins. It was the first supplier of the Magic Box to Sprint, but it’s also supplying its Air5G OpenRange28 millimeter wave platform at 28 GHz to Rakuten Mobile in Japan. Reliance Jio in India uses Airspan small cells.
Last week, Gogo named Airspan as one of three vendors for its 5G network. Cisco will provide core network solutions that will power Gogo's nationwide air-to-ground (ATG) 5G network. First RF will provide advanced antenna and RF systems technology to deploy a solution that pairs Gogo's existing 3G and 4G networks as well as the new 5G network.
The Airspan Air5G product line also will be part of Gogo's system, including its virtualized-RAN base station technology that uses Massive MIMO antenna arrays for increased capacity. Airspan's product line features advanced beamforming and tracking techniques capable of communicating with an aircraft travelling in excess of 750 miles per hour, at long range, while providing an enhanced mobile broadband 5G experience.
Coletti declined to comment on whether Airspan is angling for some business from Dish Network, which last week issued its third RFP related to the buildout of a 5G greenfield network in the U.S.
He did say the company has excelled at coming up with products that break zoning barriers, like the Airstrand product that’s deployed with Sprint. It’s about creating products that are sleek in form factor and easy to deploy and that are able to scale quickly, he said.
The Airstrand is an example of a product that a cable operator could use if it wants to leverage its strand infrastructure, in, say, the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) at 3.5 GHz. “We’re very excited about those opportunities,” he said.
Airspan is a member of the Facebook-led TIP, and its products are open RAN-compliant for 4G and 5G. “We’re very much a virtualized open RAN platform,” and looking to bring it to new customers and new use cases, especially in verticals, he said.