AT&T, T-Mobile voice support for small cell backhaul from Aviat and Fastback in 70/80 GHz bands

AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) said they support a plan by Aviat Networks and Fastback Networks to use the 71-76 and 81-86 GHz bands for backhaul for small cells. The two companies are asking the FCC for authorization to deploy their backhaul technology and equipment in the bands.

"Because of the proliferation of small cells, additional backhaul capacity will be required," T-Mobile said in a new filing with the FCC on the topic. "Backhaul with high-bandwidth capacity will be particularly important as customer traffic increasingly migrates to video and other data-intensive applications. The 70/80 GHz bands are well suited to support backhaul in an ubiquitous, small cell architecture -- with light, unobtrusive antennas -- if the Commission waives its rules. Accordingly, T-Mobile requests that the Commission grant the waiver requests submitted by Aviat and Fastback in order to speed the deployment of small cells operating with equipment in the 70/80 GHz bands."

AT&T voiced similar support for the plan by Aviat and Fastback. The carrier also noted that such technologies will be key to the development of 5G technologies.

While many of the companies commenting on the topic voiced support for Aviat and Fastback's plans, Dash Networks raised some concerns. "Dash Networks believes that smaller antennas with 71-76 and 81-86 GHZ bands radios with reduced sideline performance and wider beam widths are only suitable for lower data rates," the company wrote in its objection, noting several concerns it has with the Aviat and Fastback request.

In its comments on the topic, AT&T worked to address some of Dash's concerns. "Dash's argument that a high density of links with wider beam width antennas will create more interference must be balanced against the deployment disincentives created by the requirement for larger antennas," the carrier said. "The best solution would balance these objectives in a way that would facilitate rapid deployment and, when needed, preserve the interference reduction capabilities of larger antennas and be implemented by market participants as appropriate on a case-by-case basis. One approach, used successfully with the fixed service in many other bands, is the designation of two categories of antennas, one requiring more difficult to meet requirements and the other allowing greater beamwidth, lower main beam gain and less stringent side lobe suppression."

In their request to the FCC, filed in October, Aviat and Fastback asked the FCC to ease its rules for transmissions in the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz bands, arguing that the move would allow them to offer smaller, thinner and lighter backhaul antennas, likely for small cell deployments. Wireless carriers in the United States, largely led by Verizon (NYSE: VZ), are in the midst of ramping up their rollout of small cells in order to provide faster and more reliable connections in dense urban areas. However, such rollouts are often complicated by backhaul for small cells -- thus, companies like Aviat and Fastback have been working on technologies to ease the situation by providing wireless backhaul for some small cells.

For more:
- see these two FCC filings

Related articles:
Fastback touts a twist in backhaul multipoint capability
Fastback begins testing small cell tech with Tier 1 carriers
Aviat selling off WiMAX business

Article updated Dec. 1 to correct statements from AT&T and descriptions of Aviat.