February 26, 2019
While major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon begin the rollout of 5G networks in select areas, a San Francisco startup named Common Networks is developing an alternative that combines 5G with tech open-sourced from social giant Facebook. The startup is competing with ISPs by offering home broadband instead of mobile service. In Alameda, California, for example, it is using millimeter wave 5G tech to offer 1 Gbps service for $50 per month (the speed matches that of Google Fiber’s home broadband service). The millimeter wave service uses hardware design Terragraph, which Facebook open-sourced through its Telecom Infrastructure Project.
According to Wired, “Facebook has been working with carriers around the world to test Terragraph, but Common Networks is among the first to use the technology to deliver Internet connectivity to customers in the U.S.”
Companies such as Webpass, a Google Fiber acquisition that “offers gigabit wireless in several cities,” are introducing significant upgrades to wireless speeds. However, Common Networks CEO and co-founder Zach Brock believes “his company has found a way to build 5G networks more quickly, and cheaply, than the competition.”
“Millimeter wave services can offer fast speeds by tapping into less commonly used high-frequency parts of the wireless spectrum,” notes Wired. To work around the problem of signals being blocked by walls or trees, “carriers anticipate building lots [of] small cell towers, some as small as smoke detectors, that carry signals across relatively short spaces instead of massive cell towers that blanket entire regions with wireless connectivity.”
Such an approach could prove a viable alternative to costly 5G infrastructure. Terragraph “aims to reduce the need for fiber-optic lines by letting these smaller cells connect to each other.”
“Terragraph doesn’t eliminate Common Networks’ need for fiber-optic backhaul — one of those nearby Terragraph devices will need to be connected to fiber,” Wired explains. “But it reduces how much infrastructure the company needs to deliver service.”