Airgain integrated antenna-HPUE modem promises to double effective Band 14 range
Airgain today announced AirgainConnect AC-HPUE, an antenna-modem that is designed to double the LTE coverage range of a mobile router by integrating a 700 MHz Band 14 high-power-user-equipment (HPUE) modem into the antenna, enabling 10 times the transmit power of a typical roof-mounted antenna.
AirgainConnect AC-HPUE integrates a FirstNet Ready Band 14 HPUE modem from Assured Wireless—an Airgain partner—within the antenna assembly, effectively eliminating the approximate 2 dB loss experienced as the signal is transmitted on cabling that connects an LTE router modem to a typical vehicle-mounted antenna. Only the Band 14 spectrum licensed to the FirstNet Authority is allowed to support HPUE devices that transmit signals at 1.25 watts, compared to the 0.20 watts of power used by typical commercial LTE devices.
“AirgainConnect is a breakthrough new platform that integrates high-power mobile modem technology with an antenna into the same package, enabling superior performance for 4G and 5G communications,” Airgain President and CEO Jacob Suen said in a prepared statement.
“Through our new partnership with Assured Wireless, we are proud to announce AirgainConnect AC-HPUE, the first AirgainConnect product. Powered by Assured Wireless’ HPUE modem module, the AirgainConnect AC-HPUE enables more reliable connections, wider coverage, and greater performance. We are thrilled to announce this new platform, which for Airgain represents a new level of advanced product solutions, enabling improved connectivity to those who need it most—our first responders.”
Established in 2012, the FirstNet Authority is charged with building a self-sustaining nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN). In March 2017, the FirstNet Authority contracted with telecom giant AT&T to deploy and maintain this public-safety LTE system for 25 years.
“AirgainConnect marks a milestone in the progression of technology to increase the support of communications for first responders,” Assured Wireless CEO Tom Bilotta. “Integrated with Assured’s FirstNet Ready HPUE modem module, this ground-breaking technology will provide critical connectivity like never before.
“Not only will this provide better range in underserved rural areas, it also addresses a dramatic increase in coverage and higher data rates for deeper in-building penetration and other fringe areas.”
Assured Wireless officials have said that its HPUE modules extend the effective range of a Band 14 LTE modem by about 80% in a typical antenna arrangement. By integrating this HPUE capability in the patented Airgain platform that eliminates 2 dB of typical cable loss, the AirgainConnect AC-HPUE is designed to effectively double the range of an LTE modem.
For an isolated cell site, doubling the range of an LTE device effectively quadruples the total coverage area, given a consistent environment surrounding the cell site. Such a performance gain is expected to be particularly helpful in rural areas, where economic factors often limit the number of cell sites deployed.
In addition, Bilotta has noted that HPUE also can be used to improve signal strength in other challenging environments, such as in a basement parking garage, inside a building or inside a forest with significant foliage.
As with other cellular signals, HPUE devices do not radiate signals at maximum power under all conditions; the power level automatically is adjusted to ensure performance while saving battery life and to prevent harmful interference to other devices in the area.
Under a strategic agreement signed early this year, “Airgain has limited exclusivity to the use of Assured Wireless’ HPUE modem module for integrated antenna device applications,” according to an Airgain press release about the announcement.
AirgainConnect’s platform also provides performance benefits when the user device is accessing spectrum outside of Band 14. When used on non-HPUE bands, AirgainConnect delivers about 60% more power when compared to conventional modem and antenna solutions, according to Airgain officials.
Airgain officials expect to have the AirgainConnect AC-HPUE solution available for commercial deployments during the second half of this year. Airgain officials declined to comment on the projected pricing of the product.
The Airgain AC-HPUE platform could help bolster the effective coverage that the FirstNet system provides to first responders subscribing to the NPSBN—a key metric for public-safety and critical-infrastructure entities choosing between AT&T, Verizon or other carriers as a wireless broadband provider.
Last August, Chris Sambar—AT&T’s senior vice president for the FirstNet program at the time, before he was promoted to AT&T’s executive vice president for technology and operations—described HPUE as a “game changer.” In January, Jason Porter—Sambar’s successor as AT&T’s senior vice president for the FirstNet program—echoed this sentiment, telling IWCE’s Urgent Communications that AT&T is “excited where [HPUE] will go, based on the testing we have done.”
Such anticipation for HPUE is understandable. If HPUE products can deliver the promised performance gains, the implications could be significant for FirstNet adoption by public-safety entities.
AT&T recently announced that FirstNet is providing more than 1.3 million connections to more than 12,000 public-safety agencies. In the past, officials surrounding the FirstNet initiative have acknowledged that adoption likely would be greater if not for a perception that the LTE coverage for FirstNet—using AT&T’s radio access network, as well as the carrier’s commercial spectrum—is inferior to the coverage provided by Verizon.
But recent figures released by both carriers and third-party sources indicate that Verizon’s LTE coverage advantage has narrowed to 70,000 square miles. If FirstNet subscribers are able to realize the performance gains from HPUE on the outskirts of AT&T’s network, that effective coverage gap presumably would narrow further, if not disappear entirely.
To date, AT&T has not responded to requests from IWCE’s Urgent Communications to quantify the nationwide coverage impact of HPUE in this manner.