T-Mobile US revealed plans to test an outdoor E-band radio to evaluate its suitability for use as a high bandwidth 5G link in urban environments.
In a filing with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), T-Mobile sought permission to test Ceragon Network’s FibeAir IP-20E at two locations in Bellevue, Washington. The radios will operate in the “lightly licensed” E-band frequencies, specifically the 71GHz to 76GHz and 81GHz to 86GHz ranges.
T-Mobile noted the “high bandwidth, short distance spectrum is perfect for a point-to-point hop from one building to another to support 5G in urban cores”.
Ceragon Network’s product specifications for the backhaul link indicate the IP-20E radio is capable of supporting speeds of up to 2.5Gb/s over a 500MHz channel. The radio also features 1024QAM for increased spectral efficiency and multiband bonding to supplement existing microwave links.
Headed for 5G
T-Mobile’s move to test high bandwidth backhaul comes as the operator pushes toward its goal of deploying a fully mobile 5G network by 2020. The operator said it plans to use its new 600MHz spectrum assets alongside its mid-band airwaves and 200MHz of spectrum in the 28GHz and 39GHz bands to achieve its goal. T-Mobile already began densifying its network as part of the 5G effort, with plans to roll out 2,000 more small cells this year and an additional 25,000 by the end of 2018.
But the operator will also need a backhaul network capable of supporting 5G.
At an investor conference in June Karri Kuoppamaki, T-Mobile’s VP of Radio Network Technology and Strategy, shared the operator’s decision to team up with dark fibre partners to backhaul its small cell densification project. However, the operator noted in the FCC filing it also already holds a nationwide licence for use of E-band spectrum, which opens up the potential for more microwave backhaul as well.