The millimeter wave (mmWave) regime is so foreign to mobile operators that Pivotal Commware developed an entire ecosystem around its Pivot products.
The company calls it Pivotal Turnkey, which it commercially launched in September, coinciding with the Mobile World Congress trade show in Las Vegas.
The ecosystem includes WaveScape, a network planning tool for placement of network elements, including the Pivot 5G and Echo 5G. Pivots navigate signals around obstacles, while Echos penetrate signals indoors through window glass. There’s also the Intelligent Beam Management System for managing and optimizing the repeater network layer.
“We have a great advantage of not having anything of what we call ‘business as usual,’ said Pivotal Commware CEO Brian Deutsch. “We’ve been partnering with CLECs around the country for right of way, and it’s worked spectacularly.”
Last week, Pivotal Commware announced that its Turnkey solution is being used by a Tier 1 mobile network operator in Houston. It did not identify the carrier, but in the past, Verizon has recognized Pivotal as a partner, and Pivotal Commware is a Verizon Ventures company.
Deutsch said being a Verizon Ventures company doesn’t preclude the company from working with other carriers. “They want us to be healthy.” However, “there’s obviously some fences put up,” on how that operates, he said, declining to go into exact details of the relationship.
Pivotal announced Houston as the site where it’s expanding the 5G mmWave coverage for potential fixed wireless access (FWA) subscribers. But Deutsch promised the company will be talking about “a lot of big NFL cities” in the future.
It works pretty slick, according to Deutsch, in that they can go into any city where an MNO has deployed mmWave 5G for mobility services and use their pre-existing network elements, alongside Pivotal’s, to light up new FWA services in a matter of months.
Since FWA subscribers consume about 40 times the data of mobile subscribers, getting them onto the vast spectrum available at mmWave frequencies is a big opportunity, he said.
Was there a pullback on mmWave when operators, namely AT&T and Verizon, got access to their C-band spectrum? Deutsch said he would not describe it that way.
Based on public comments by company executives, Verizon isn’t slowing down, he said. Earlier this year, Verizon had about 33,000 mmWave sites on air, and he believes that number is much larger now. (Verizon has not released any new numbers for its mmWave deployment, a spokesperson told Fierce on Monday.)
Deutsch and his company are well aware of the mmWave critics. But he said the folks that have invested the time, effort and resources early to build out the infrastructure will be rewarded. The way he sees it, once a carrier launches FWA on C-band, they can convert those subscribers to mmWave and continue to “push cable right out the window.”
The speeds and capacity that are enabled at mmWave frequencies make the perfect match for FWA, he said. In the U.S., both Verizon and T-Mobile are growing subscribers on FWA, which uses the same network as their mobility subscribers.
Deutsch said he’s been in the business for decades, and “I’ve never seen something succeed so quickly as fixed wireless has and managed to keep those net promoter scores,” he said. “They’re killing cable, obviously … These carriers wouldn’t be doing this if this was going muck up their mobility spectrum without some confidence” that they can offload it onto more available spectrum.
“We’ve cracked the code, and we’re the ones the carriers are turning to,” he said.
Pivotal’s gear is about 8 inches x 8 inches x 5 inches; it includes both a donor unit and service unit, so “two Scooby Doo lunchboxes, basically, up on a light pole that draw less than 30 watts,” he said. They also have a solar solution for power that’s coming out next year.
The company is in a growth spurt and while Deutsch said they’re not loving where the market is, there’s no shortage of money for companies like his that are showing traction in revenue.
In fact, he said Pivotal’s business is expanding around the world. The company, which is based in Kirkland, Washington, employs about 140 employees, plus about another 30 contractors, including two software engineers in Ukraine.
Verizon has been a great investor, partner and customer, he said. “They open a lot of doors for us around the world too,” he said.