X-ray specs: Signal whizz JMA Wireless claims to have solved indoor 5G, everyone

But how will it compare against Wi-Fi 6?

American mobile connectivity biz JMA Wireless claims to have completed the design of a 5G product stack designed specifically to provide wireless networking within buildings.

JMA is a private company based in Liverpool, New York, that makes connectors and components, radio frequency repeaters, small cell solutions and active distributed antenna systems to enable LTE, 5G, and CBRS services on mobile operator networks.

The company hopes to deliver some of the first 5G millimetre wave equipment for use in environments like stadiums, factories and offices.

The tech was presented this week at the 5G Now! event in Bologna, Italy, where JMA operates one of its R&D centres.

Running 5G networks indoors is tricky, since radio waves can be disrupted by certain building materials, insulation and UV window filters, among other things. 5G offers much more capacity and speed than 4G, but because of shorter wavelengths it sucks at wall penetration – and according to ABI, at least 80 per cent of mobile data traffic is originating or terminating indoors.

This is why indoor coverage and small cells are such hot topics: to deliver on their lofty promises, network operators will need to deploy additional access points in densely built-up environments, where the signal will compete with Wi-Fi and a variety of IoT standards.

JMA's answer to this problem relies on its XRAN all-software baseband and Phazr IOTA small cell radios – the latter built with technology it acquired with the purchase of millimetre wave specialist Phazr in December 2018. JMA claimed at the time that the acquisition meant it had become "the first American company with complete LTE and 5G technologies that address the full range of spectrum, from 600MHz to 47GHz".

The XRAN is running a 100 per cent software-based stack on top of commercial servers with Intel inside. The Phazr IOTA 5G millimetre wave radios also involves chips from Intel – Chipzilla has been active in the development of 5G standards and its latest crop of CPUs involves several parts designed for Network Function Virtualization (NFV).

JMA has been a member of the Intel Network Builders programme since 2018 - XRAN platform runs on Intel silicon using x86 architecture.

Next, the technology will be tested with mobile operators that have acquired millimetre-wave spectrum.

Millimetre wave 5G is not the only take on indoor connectivity, and will have to compete against the new Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard; it promises lower latency and more capacity than 802.11ac, and is being positioned as the perfect fit for indoor networking.

Just this week, the Wireless Broadband Alliance issued a 40-page document with guidelines on Wi-Fi 6 deployment – despite the fact it is not expected to be officially ratified until late 2019. ®

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