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

Artemis Networks, a wireless startup that aims to reshape the wireless landscape through its pCell technology (and a 2014 Fierce 15 winner), is leasing spectrum from Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) in San Francisco to demonstrate its technology in a commercial service. Although Artemis aims to be more of a technology solutions provider, the company is partnering with Dish on a limited basis to get its technology off the ground.

Dish, through its wholly-owned subsidiary American H Block Wireless LLC, will lease the 1900 MHz PCS H Block spectrum it controls in San Francisco to Artemis for up to two years, though the FCC needs to approve the lease first. It's unclear how long it will take for the FCC to grant that approval, but Artemis aims to launch the service sometime this fall. 

Artemis plans on launching its own service in San Francisco once it receives FCC approval to lease the spectrum, according to Steve Perlman, founder and CEO of Artemis. Artemis will also offer MVNO service via its own SIM cards with one of the Tier 1 U.S. carriers for when users are roaming outside of the Artemis service area in San Francisco.

Perlman said that a combination of business, technical and purely opportunistic factors led Artemis to decide to deploy its own service. Dish's H Block is compatible with the newest iPhones and many other devices, so Artemis would not need to convince Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) or any carrier to design new, unique equipment for its service.

But Perlman said Artemis' goal isn't to launch its own commercial service. Instead, the company's ultimate goal is to have carriers use Artemis' pCell technology in their networks under their own brand. He said Artemis is conducting technology trials with other carriers, including those outside of the U.S. "Ultimately we don't see ourselves being a mass market carrier at a large scale," he said. "Our business is providing a technology."

Currently, Artemis does not have a price for its SIM cards or have a relationship with a carrier solidified, according to Perlman. The company is waiting for FCC approval before it finalizes its pricing, though it will likely sell SIM cards online.

However, Perlman said the company aims to launch "unlimited wireless at a much lower cost than any of the other unlimited wireless" providers. Perlman declined to say how much lower, but said pCell service will be unlimited wireless that "performs like a cable modem" that is "extremely consistent throughout" a given area. "It will be a different experience," he added.

Artemis describes its pCell system as a software-defined radio Cloud-RAN that connects through fronthaul to pWave radios distributed throughout the coverage area. The pCell system exploits radio signal interference, rather than trying to reduce or eliminate it, to synthesize a 1-centimeter diameter "personal cell" around the antenna of any standard LTE device in the coverage area.

To use the Artemis pCell service in the Dish-leased spectrum band, users will simply insert an Artemis SIM card into an LTE Band 39 device like an iPhone 6. LTE Band 39 supports TD-LTE service in the 1900 MHz band (including the 1915-1920 MHz portion of the H Block).

Artemis is working in San Francisco with a firm called Webpass, which controls around 600 rooftop locations in San Francisco. Artemis will install its radios on Webpass' rooftops.

Artemis has partnered with Dish before. Last spring Artemis started testing wireless services in Palo Alto, Calif., on the 2000-2020 MHz and 2180-220 MHz bands, Dish's AWS-4 spectrum.

Perlman said that the companies working together is a "win-win" because Dish does not have the infrastructure to deploy its spectrum. "Our cost of deployment is so much lower, and ease of deployment is so much easier," he said.  Dish declined to comment.

Perlman said the H Block is a "pilot band" for Artemis to test its service in, and that the company "hopes to do more" if the deployment in San Francisco goes well.

Artemis also announced its Artemis I Hub for venue and indoor trials. The Artemis I Hub provides pCell service through 32 distributed antennas, delivering up to 1.5 Gbps in shared spectrum to off-the-shelf LTE devices, with frequency agility across a wide swath of spectrum bands, from 600 MHz up to 6 GHz. Frequency-agile pWave remote radio heads for outdoor use will be available later this year, though Perlman declined to say when.

The Hub product is aimed at venues like campuses and stadiums, and Perlman said it will be tested ta Levi's Stadium in the Bay Area. He also said that the company is more interested in conducting trials than making companies pay to test its technology and that it will arrange trials on a case-by-case basis.

For more:
- see this Artemis H Block release (PDF)
- see this Artemis white paper release (PDF)

Related Articles:
Artemis Networks - pCell - wireless startups - Fierce 15 2014
Artemis claims pCell can 'blow the doors off' LTE spectral efficiency
Artemis conducting pCell tests using Dish's spectrum in San Francisco area
Artemis names PureWave as pCell base station supplier                   
Artemis' pCell offers personal cell for every device, promises dramatic LTE capacity increase