Public funding for fixed wireless access field trial

16th September 2021
Joe Bush

Pharrowtech, a fabless semiconductor vendor of mmWave radio frequency (RF) technology, has joined a consortium supported by the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO). The consortium includes Telenet, a leading internet service provider that is part of Liberty Global, and Unitron, a wireless equipment maker, and will roll-out a field trial for high-speed wireless internet access to homes and businesses in 2022. It will validate the performance of Pharrowtech’s mmWave technology and further establish the 60GHz band for outdoor fixed wireless broadband access for tier-1 service providers.

Demand for ultrafast broadband (1Gbps+) is increasing, but optical fibre technology has proven to be both prohibitively expensive and logistically cumbersome to deploy in suburban, rural, and even certain urban locations, leaving many areas underserved. Pharrowtech delivers a cost-effective, high performance, carrier-grade 60GHz mmWave solution based on CMOS process technology for this market. The technology is reliable and robust enough to cope with the outdoors environment, while delivering superior performance compared to alternatives in the market. It enables high speed internet in urban, suburban and rural locations alike, while also being cost-effective to roll-out.

The field trial’s primary focus is to unleash the potential of next generation broadband via millimetre-wave (mmWave) Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). FWA networks provide residential properties and businesses with Gigabit internet access through a wireless connection, with a total cost of ownership at a fraction of fibre’s. The globally available, unlicensed spectrum around 60GHz is well suited to deliver very high data rates, low-latency, cost effective FWA.

The VLAIO grant will be used to support preparation and execution for a Telenet field trial of Pharrowtech’s mmWave RFIC technology using Unitron’s network elements, as well as state-of-the-art beamforming and mesh control software developed by imec’s research laboratories. Being awarded this grant demonstrates the growing recognition for Pharrowtech’s rapid progress towards full commercialisation of its chip and phased array antenna technology, and is an important step in accelerating the deployment of cost effective, high speed FWA broadband.

Pharrowtech CEO and Co-Founder, Wim van Thillo, said: “We are extremely pleased that VLAIO is supporting us to roll out our technology with these leading partners. This field trial perfectly represents the massive business opportunity that mmWave FWA offers. Even in areas as densely populated as Belgium, operators struggle to deploy gigabit internet services fast enough. This project will establish our technology as a key complement to fiber for fast and economical high-speed internet deployments everywhere.”

Unitron CTO, Stephen Deleu, said: “With this VLAIO project, UnitronGroup will expand its knowledge in the higher frequency ranges and discover new wireless applications for ultrafast broadband communication. UnitronGroup is the market leader in multiple high frequency technologies, and collaborating with knowledge partners helps us strengthen our position. As a key technology partner for multiple telecom operators, our role in this ambitious project is to provide the FWA customer and distribution node elements. We are excited to be part of this consortium and looking forward to the insights and outcomes of this VLAIO project.”

Telenet, Director Network and Infrastructure, Luk Bruynseels, said: “For Telenet it is paramount to keep on investing in innovative ways to deliver digital services to our customers. We have multiple use cases in scope where FWA technology brings opportunities and important benefits by reducing installation and roll-out costs. This VLAIO project is a great opportunity for Telenet to gather and share all required knowledge and expertise within the consortium to ensure we meet the expected outcome of the project.”

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