Ericsson will provide 5G Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and Radio Access Network (RAN) technology to Nex-Tech Wireless, supporting its 5G NR Non-standalone (NSA) deployment at key sites in Kansas.
Nex-Tech has a strong 600 MHz portfolio that bolsters its low-band holdings throughout its footprint, which will allow it to begin its 5G rollout later this year, according to Nathan Sutter, director of Network Operations and Engineering at Nex-Tech Wireless, based in Hays, Kansas.
Ericsson has been its primary network vendor since the implementation of LTE in 2013. “We are looking forward to our continued partnership for 5G,” Sutter said via email. Nex-Tech Wireless expects to launch its 5G service by the third quarter of 2020.
Nex-Tech Wireless has both 24 and 28 GHz spectrum over much of its coverage area, as well as significant PCS holdings for the mid-band layer. “We will be deploying this where needed to improve backhaul capacity and resilience,” Sutter said. “We will also evaluate deploying mmWave for mobility hot spots, supporting both in-building and special events.”
Nex-Tech is an active member of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), which is currently engaged with federal policy-makers over how to replace Chinese-made infrastructure with gear from approved vendors. Nex-Tech doesn’t have any Huawei gear, so that's not an immediate concern.
Some smaller vendors are taking the opportunity to pitch their own hardware and software to the CCA members that are replacing gear. Many of those efforts revolve around Open RAN and virtualization.
Nex-Tech said virtualization has been a key point of focus for its network and it’s continually evaluating additional areas where it might take advantage of that flexibility. “We are closely following the Open RAN approach and believe, once proven, it could be a useful tool for our network,” Sutter said.
According to Ericsson, its 5G EPC and RAN enhancements will future-proof existing customer core assets via software updates in order to enable support for new use cases that require improved latency and data throughput guarantees. In addition, Nex-Tech will be implementing Ericsson Spectrum Sharing technology, which will allow the carrier to allocate spectrum assets efficiently based on traffic demand using existing infrastructure, enabling a smoother transition to 5G.
Nex-Tech Wireless and Ericsson signed a deal in September 2019 to roll out 600 MHz 5G capabilities in some markets. That deal allowed Nex-Tech Wireless to provide Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Wi-Fi calling services using Ericsson’s cloud-based IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) solution.