Casa Systems is best known in the cable industry, but it has been building on its experience in fixed wireless access (FWA) to develop a 5G offering that will target WISPs and mobile operators (as well as, no doubt, the cable customers that expand into 5G fixed/mobile services in future). A week after it worked with Qualcomm and Ericsson to demonstrate the longest ever distance for a 5G data call in millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, it has announced a CPE (customer premise equipment) unit for 5G FWA-enabled home broadband.
The data call, in 400 MHz of spectrum, was designed to test how far the distance covered by fixed 5G signals in mmWave – with its notoriously short range – could be extended, given the right antenna technology, power allowance and environment. Conducted in a rural part of Victoria, Australia, it achieved a distance of 3.8 kilometers, which Casa said was a proof of the strong potential of mmWave 5G as a fixed broadband solution.
Australia has been a strong market for early 5G FWA. Optus launched fixed services first on its network, harnessing the 3.5 GHz spectrum it acquired when it bought Unwired Australia in 2012. Telstra has also expressed interest in FWA, and for both operators this would be a way to get back into the fixed broadband market and work around the wholesale monopoly of NBN (however, Telstra has to be careful not to break its commitment not to compete with NBN in high speed services).
The data call feat was achieved by applying extended-range software to commercial Ericsson hardware, including the Air5121 and Baseband 6630 base station combination, and to a CPE device powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System, together with the chip vendor’s QTM527 mmWave antenna module. This module was introduced recently as a companion to the X55 and according to Gautam Sheoran, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, it was designed for “empowering operators and OEMs to offer high performance, extended-range multi-gigabit 5G broadband to their customers. This is both flexible and cost-effective, as they can leverage existing 5G network infrastructure.”
Casa’s new outdoor CPE, the Aurus Autonomous Intelligence (AurusAI), promises to be the first in the company’s 5G mmWave CPE portfolio. Indoor options will be added soon – these are very important for the 5G business case, as Verizon has described. Outdoor units entail the cost of a truck roll and can be obtrusive, whereas indoor units are increasingly plug-and-play, and could even be integrated with other home electronics units.
The AurusAI claims up to gigabit speeds and a compact, unobtrusive form factor. Most importantly, it is built around intelligent, steerable antennas with active beamforming, which automatically scan 360 degrees each day to identify the strongest signal in range, in order to deliver optimal performance. The antenna system can dynamically adjust for environmental or seasonal effects on the signal, and if technology is changed or upgraded, the CPE can be automatically retuned too.
Casa said its CPE was designed to deliver low total cost of ownership. Using an app to do the site survey means AurusAI can be deployed in half the time of most FWA CPE designs, said the company, and without a specialized RF engineer.
Casa is a major player in the relatively niche FWA market, but clearly aims to leverage this position, and potentially its cable customer base, to target the whole 5G RAN and core market, taking advantage of the shift towards multivendor, software-based networks. The vendor has products in the cloud-native core, edge and access domains in 5G and recently took part in a network slicing demonstration with Orange and HPE. It has a deepening relationship with HPE, and is one of the partners whose core network virtual network functions (VNFs) can run on the larger vendor’s new 5G multivendor core platform.
“5G is completely changing how networks are designed and built. As a result, service providers are looking beyond solutions from legacy vendors to best of breed innovations at every segment of their network, from the customer premise through to the virtualized, cloud-native 5G core,” said Jerry Guo, Casa’s CEO.
Last year, Casa expanded its addressable market with the acquisition of NetComm Wireless, which is how it secured its place as one of the biggest global suppliers of FWA CPE units.