One of the key target markets for 5G deployments is ‘the last mile of copper’ from the local cabinet to the home. In order to avoid churning up streets to create fiber to the home, Qualcomm has repeated its intention to replace that last connection with some form of wireless, namely 5G. This requires each property to own a 5G hotspot that connects to the mast, and convert that signal either to Ethernet or local Wi-Fi. In order to do this, Qualcomm is creating a 5G home broadband reference design for its customers to take and productize. On one side of the hardware is a Qualcomm 5G modem, while on the wired side is Aquantia’s AQtion Multi-Gig Ethernet solution.

The Last Mile of Copper

The rise of high-speed home broadband has stalled in recent quarters. There have been attempts by big companies to deploy gigabit fiber to the home, or local residents associations can do it themselves, but in many cases, there hasn’t been enough penetration, especially in suburban environments. The main issue is digging up the road and invading public infrastructure to do so, as well as the overall cost. One of the ways around that is to replace that final connection to the home with something a bit more easily deployed, and potentially cheaper and faster at the same time.

5G comes in two forms: Sub 6 GHz, and mmWave. While mmWave is designed for dense urban environments with lots of traffic, sub 6 GHz is going to be the prevailing 5G technology for carriers that want to cover the widespread areas of most modern cities and towns, both for smartphone connections and if Qualcomm’s ideas are realised, home broadband (also known as ‘Fixed Wireless Access Equipment’). Ideally the technology will allow for >1 Gigabit speeds per installation, which would also mean that wired/wireless connections on the other side also need >1 Gigabit connectivity, such as multi-gigabit Ethernet (using Aquantia), or Wi-Fi 6 installations.

Qualcomm’s reference design, capable of both Sub 6 GHz and mmWave, is set to be adopted by OEMs and carriers in Japan and Korea first, given the fact that their carriers are very quick adopters of new technologies, with Qualcomm’s customers expected to roll out their devices in 2020 for the US and European markets. This is highly contingent on how effective suburban deployments of 5G proceed, and which technologies are in play. Qualcomm’s design pairs the X55 modem with the AQtion AQC107 (up to 10 GbE) or AQC111C (up to 5 GbE) wired solution, both along with the QCA6390 Wi-Fi 6 chipset, with customers free to design the systems further for power, firmware, and software.

Price of the hardware, and data connections, will be carrier dependent. With the devices being focused on replacing fixed connections, there is arguably more room for stability compared to traditional mobile hotspot solutions.

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  • Valantar - Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - link

    While I see the appeal of this on paper, in reality it sounds ... problematic. What kind of range is realistic while maintaining enough bandwidth to supply, say, ten families with modern broadband speeds (I'd say the absolute minimum is 50Mbps/household)? How is this affected by weather? Mmwave will definitely suffer any time it's raining, and fog and snow probably won't be any better. Even conventional WiFi has issues outside in bad weather.

    Then there's the number of cell towers needed - if you need one per 10-20 households, then ... are they really saving anything at all? That sure sounds a lot more expensive than just laying down some fiber.
  • eva02langley - Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - link

    The idea is 5G is going to be the new internet network. For the next 10 years, 5G goal is to connect everything, or pretty much everything. The goal is the network to put in place even more relationships that could link in further innovations.

    So by implementing a 5G router in every household, it is not so far fetched of a possibility. It is the intended result. ISP might switch their business at some point when they realize implementing new infrastructures are more costly.
  • igavus - Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - link

    You are completely ignoring the OP's point. The idea will fall flat if it doesn't work in all weather. It's kind of ironic too, since you'd expect more usage during rainy days when people won't want to go out and might consume more media for entertainment..
  • bcronce - Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - link

    New infrastructure is a fraction the cost of customer support. An ISP sending a person to your house once is about the same cost as running fiber to your house. Based on average costs. It is a fact that using fiber dramatically reduces the rate of sending a tech to people's houses.

    My guess is the current issue is that more and more people hate being tethered and want everything over wifi. So many wireless devices like phones, laptops, tablets, roku type STBs.

    But fiber cannot be replaced with wifi as the primary source of bandwidth distribution. Physics pretty much puts a practical limit on wifi's shared nature. We're already on track for 100Gb to the house over a multi-terabit PON for nearly the same price as 1Gb.. over fiber. Not going to get 100Gb from wifi any time soon.
  • supdawgwtfd - Friday, April 12, 2019 - link

    Any time soon?

    Never. Unless you sitting so close to the radio source you may as well use a cable...
  • Valantar - Saturday, April 13, 2019 - link

    You misunderstand me. A router per household doesn't help whatsoever if the towers/base stations are too far away to maintain bandwidth - and you'd need to run fiber to the base stations no matter what. If the range is anywhere near what I hypothesized, then running the fiber the rest of the way to the house is very obviously a better idea.
  • name99 - Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - link

    I get the impression that (like 50% of tech marketing) the people talking this stuff up to the press have no idea WTF they are doing.
    I agree that tech like this seems, uh, problematic for *most* first world users; there's advantages to QC, yes, but the advantages to the users are rather less obvious...

    BUT that doesn't mean the tech is useless. In fact I think it will likely be of substantial value to many third world countries (like South Asia, South America, or Africa). For example it's difficult to get a home internet connection in Yangon Myanmar, and the connection you get is this crappy WiMax thing that gives you maybe 1Mbps and, yes, works badly under a variety of poor weather conditions.

    Sure, sure, the ideal solution is that Yangon gets fiber everywhere. Just like the ideal solution to all Yangon's problems is that overnight everyone gets 10x richer and the entire infrastructure is replaced. But until that glorious day, things happen incrementally. So if you can replace your 1Mbps fixed wireless connection with something that's still fixed wireless but perhaps 20Mbps, even if still subject to rain outages, that's a win for everyone.
  • supdawgwtfd - Friday, April 12, 2019 - link

    What's worse is that even tech press are soaking it up and not even engaging their few brain cells see if it's even possible.

    This entire article feels 100% copy paste marketing from supplier with 0 tech checking at all.
  • Valantar - Saturday, April 13, 2019 - link

    This is a decent point, and the impossibility of implementing this kind of fixed infrastructure in a lot of non-western countries makes mobile internet the only real option there, and as such this would of course be better than previous solutions. However, you still have the issue of needing a whackton of base stations to provide coverage, a problem that mmWave makes _far_ worse due to its line-of-sight requirements. And base stations require fiber or other types of fast, fixed connections (unless they use satellite connections, which are, again, terrible). And signal degradation in imperfect weather conditions is still an issue.

    FWIW, I visited Cambodia last summer - a country that's pretty comparable to Myanmar in terms of (lack of) wealth - and 4G coverage in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap was quite good, actually. As you say, it's the only internet connection available to the vast majority of people there, and that won't change until they radically rejigger their way of planning and implementing infrastructure, but 5G does little-to-nothing to solve this - and at-home 5G multi-gig routers are not meant for markets like these anyhow. They are "premium" products, and will be too expensive for the vast majority in these markets.
  • supdawgwtfd - Friday, April 12, 2019 - link

    "One of the ways around that is to replace that final connection to the home with something a bit more easily deployed, and potentially cheaper and faster at the same time."


    Wireless is not "faster" and never will be until we can break the current laws of physics.

    Please fix your misleading article.

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