LIVE FROM TELECOM INFRA PROJECT SUMMIT 2018, LONDON: Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and Malaysia’s YTL Communications opened up on the benefits of Facebook’s Terragraph system for boosting coverage in urban areas, with both operators set to expand early trials into more significant deployments.

Deutsche Telekom trialled the mmWave (unlicensed 60GHz) technology as a fixed wireless offering via its Hungarian subsidiary Magyar Telekom last month. 126 nodes were deployed in the village of Mikebuda on 28 power poles, with 50 customers connected. Terragraph is typically deployed on street furniture or rooftops.

“The trial results were very encouraging,” proclaimed Alex Jinsung Choi (pictured above), SVP – Research and Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom. “We measured speeds and Terragraph clearly delivered on promises. At the client node we saw up to 1Gb/s and the indoor CPE was 650Mb/s. That’s up to 100 times faster than existing DSL services and we achieved 99.5 per cent service availability.”

Choi noted that customer satisfaction was “really good”, despite the installation process being “a little cumbersome” in the first outing.

Speaking earlier in the session, Facebook’s Yael Maguire (VP – Connectivity) stated the trial network had been deployed in six days, with each customer installation on average taking about two hours.

Deutsche Telekom has now extended its trial to the village of Marko, this month targeting between 120 and 150 users. And Choi revealed that the operator will go further: “We are in the process of preparing an RFI document that we intend to send out in the coming weeks. We are very serious about this.”

Any commercial deployment plans of Terragraph would likely play a (smaller) complementary role to deploying 5G nationwide in the next few years, but Choi was confident the operator had dealt with challenges of deploying mmWave technology (such as ensuring line of sight, as well as currently needing a temporary license to deploy at 60GHz).

“Overall this is a very new deployment and operating model for a telco so we have to be more creative when doing this kind of trial. More importantly, our target of cost reduction and time to market…. we achieved our targets – deployment was extremely agile. It’s feasible and can be commercially viable.”

Meanwhile, Malaysia operator YTL has just completed Asia’s first trial of Terragraph, claiming it achieved speeds approaching 1Gb/s on a multi-hop network with the actual installation of all the equipment taking less than ten days.

“That’s better than some of the numbers seen with 5G,” YTL CEO Wing Lee (pictured standing, left) said, while noting that latency was coming in at under one millisecond. “We believe this opportunity is ready for us to scale up out of the lab test into the real world.”

In fact, Lee took further aim at the 5G market, claiming a lack of spectrum harmonisation across Asia will hinder 5G rollout. “The economics [of Terragraph] are fantastic – you don’t have to pay for the right to use air.”

And he took a swipe at the likes of “traditional” network infrastructure giants Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia: “We’ve been working with proprietary vendors that work at a quarterly or annual pace,” he lamented. “We need multiple tools – we’ve been trained to only look at few tools as that is what our equipment vendors gave us. Now we are turning to an open source movement for problem solving; it offers awesome opportunities.”