Airgain Takes 5G to New Heights by Improving Customer Bandwidth Experience

Ask the general public, and they would likely express that 5G hasn’t met the level of excitement it generated. Over a span of years, both mainstream media and wireless service providers have presented the fifth-generation mobile broadband technology, commonly referred to as 5G, as nothing less than a transformative “fourth industrial revolution.”

This vision encompassed possibilities like enabling robotic surgeries through remote rural telemedicine and establishing fully interconnected “smart cities” of tomorrow. While the technology indeed holds significant promise, its implementation and scalability have proven to be more challenging than anticipated. Yet, with appropriate solutions, this enthusiasm can eventually evolve into a more tangible reality.

5G Connectivity Example Graphic
A better 5G experience requires a "whole network" approach

At Airgain, the progression of 5G technologies introduces a unique set of challenges that the company is especially equipped to address. Airgain has taken on the mission of streamlining all aspects of the user’s wireless 5G experience. In its endeavor to simplify wireless technology, Airgain dedicates its research, design, and innovative technological capabilities to enhance the complete user journey, spanning from the end user to the service provider. This comprehensive approach aims to pinpoint distinctive opportunities for enhancement throughout the 5G delivery system. As the global rollout of 5G continues, the industry must confront the inherent difficulties within this spectrum segment while accentuating its numerous advantages, ultimately fulfilling its genuine potential.

Though the 5G experience begins in the home or office via its interaction with the end user, the 5G process begins much earlier in the transmission phase. As engineers know, wireless is complex. One of the key challenges in delivering fast, stable, and immersive 5G wireless begins with how 5G travels. While 5G delivers on its promises of lower latency, increased capacity, and higher throughput, it comes at the expense of a shorter communication distance from the base station because of the higher frequencies. For example, while the 700MHz part of the spectrum can transmit signal very far, its throughput is low.

The C-Band spectrum at around 3.5GHz can achieve much more throughput, but only travels 20% as far, and the problem only gets worse with higher frequencies. 5G also performs best in clean, empty air. Water, buildings, even trees and people block or interrupt high-frequency signals. To solve this problem, wireless providers would have to install thousands of base stations or small cells, at the cost of billions of dollars, to achieve a similar coverage as 700MHz. This is not feasible for either cost or communities, many of which resist living near large base stations.

Bringing Gigabit+ Data Speeds To Broadband Internet

For this reason, Airgain believes that Fixed Wireless Access, or FWA, is one of the “killer apps” for 5G. It allows wireless providers and others to compete with entrenched cable and wired solutions for broadband connection into the home. Today, many operators in the US, and around the world, have focused their FWA efforts on devices that are as easy to install as possible, simply plug-and-play.

However, these devices often sacrifice performance in exchange for ease of installation, creating a customer experience gap. After developing outdoor antennas to boost the signal for these indoor devices, Airgain announced an outdoor FWA device that uses directional, rather than omnidirectional, antennas to boost the overall signal. However, it added an easy install kit complete with a mobile app that shows signal strength to provide the right balance of performance and ease-of-install.

Lantern Fixed Wireless Access

Airgain’s outdoor 5G Lantern™ Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) device has integrated best-in-class antennas with a 5G FR1 modem covering 617-4200 MHz. It is a robust Gigabit outdoor FWA device with IP67 rating that comes bundled with a patent-pending easy installation kit that removes the need for costly professional installation and a cloud-based management tool that allows enterprise users to visualize and track the behavior of each device.

The easy installation kit includes a mobile app that allows you to observe the real-time signal quality and adjust the direction of the device to maximize the signal strength.

Airgain Engineer Adam Chin showcasing the new Lantern Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) device.

Better 5G Experience at the Home or Office

The next problem to solve in the 5G customer experience is how to best deliver the 5G signal to the home or office. This is why Airgain developed a series of small, smart repeaters called Lighthouse, that can receive, clean up, amplify and pass the signal further down the line.  Airgain’s smart repeaters also significantly reduce deployment costs and simplify implementation. With Lighthouse, wireless providers can boost signal strength and coverage areas without losing signal fidelity, and they can do it cost-effectively with minimal installation costs.

Airgain’s Lighthouse 5G Smart Repeater also detects the best signal direction at installation, cleans up the noise and then increases it before passing it on to the end user.

This enables mobile and other devices to receive signals much further away from base stations without losing upload and download speeds and maintaining fidelity.

Unlike many other base station solutions that require a wired input, Airgain’s Lighthouse Repeaters only need access to power, and, in some cases, may be able to use a solar array, making installation in rural and remote areas even more cost effective. And with both a network version and a small or home office version, called Lighthouse Micro, Airgain simplifies the delivery of the 5G signal to the home or enterprise and ends the trade-off between performance and ease of installation. This appeals not only to mobile network operators but has strong interest from system integrator partners for enterprise environments.

Better 5G Network Infrastructure

The third challenge Airgain set out to solve was delivering a better signal from the cellular base station itself. Massive MIMO generally adds a high number of antennas on the base station compared to standard MIMO, which improves data rates and increases network capacity. At the Mobile World Congress show in February, Airgain announced a key partnership with MaxLinear, an industry leader in 5G wireless infrastructure, to pair Airgain’s latest reference design for a 64 transmit, 64 receive antenna array with their transceiver and high-performance beam-forming technology.

Better Device Configuration and Management

Finally, improving the entire 5G experience means that operators and their service providers needed a way to manage all current and future Airgain devices on their network remotely, including configuration management, change tracking, graphing performance metrics, alert monitoring, two-way communications with devices, and more. With this in mind, Airgain has partnered with Errigal, an enterprise software company specializing in network operation automation and management, for end-to-end network management. Airgain’s firmware and middleware will push data to Errigal’s platform for streamlined management and monitoring.

Despite the considerable anticipation and a rollout that hasn’t been perfect thus far, 5G holds significant promise for reshaping numerous facets of our contemporary society. However, realizing this potential, hinges on equipping providers with the necessary tools and technologies that not only tackle the inherent drawbacks of 5G but also amplify its notable advantages. For a truly transformative impact, it’s crucial that 5G extends beyond major urban areas. At Airgain, our efforts are directed towards streamlining wireless experiences at every stage of the 5G customer journey, spanning from operators to end-users, and encompassing diverse global markets. These efforts prioritize innovation, cost-effectiveness, and pragmatic feasibility.

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