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Qualcomm and Facebook working on FWA broadband

Qualcomm is to integrate a number of its chipsets with Facebook’s Terragraph technology to build fixed wireless access broadband solutions for urban areas

Qualcomm is to supply its QCA6438 and QCA6428 family of pre-802.11ay wireless chipsets for use in Facebook’s Terragraph multi-node wireless system, enabling suppliers to develop and build millimetre-wave (mmWave) solutions to deliver fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband in urban areas.

Announced in 2016, Facebook’s Terragraph wireless technology exploits the 60GHz spectrum band, until recently generally disregarded for a number of reasons, including because it is too easily attenuated by oxygen.

However, it is now being more widely considered for use as unlicensed spectrum for wireless by a number of jurisdictions, including the UK, because the large amount of available bandwidth and the signal-absorbing nature of the band means interference and network planning is simplified over short distances. It also and potentially makes the network more secure.

This makes the 60GHz band much more interesting to those hoping to build short range, ultrafast wireless networks in dense urban areas.

Facebook said its connectivity system aimed to “improve the speed, efficiency and quality of internet connectivity around the world at only a fraction of the cost of fibre deployments”.

“Our collaboration with Facebook will bring advanced 11ad and pre-11ay technologies to market increasing broadband penetration and enabling operators to reduce their capex for last-mile access” said Irvind Ghai, vice president of product management at Qualcomm subsidiary Atheros.

“Terragraph cloud controller and TDMA [time division multiple access] architecture coupled with Qualcomm Technologies solution’s 10Gbps link rate, low power consumption and early interference mitigation techniques will help make gigabit connectivity a reality.”

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The two firms claimed the enhancements provided by Qualcomm’s chipsets and integrated software between Qualcomm and Facebook would better support Terragraph’s efficient outdoor operation and minimise interference in dense urban areas.

Enhancements to the Qualcomm chipsets, including TDMA-based protocols, time synchronised nodes, channel bonding and massive array should help overcome large objects (such as buildings) in urban environments, while helping bring high-capacity internet coverage to cities.

“We’re excited to work with Qualcomm Technologies to advance the adoption of pre-802.11ay and 802.11ad 60GHz technologies and build a robust ecosystem of interoperable solutions based on Terragraph,” said Yael Maguire, vice-president of connectivity, Facebook.

“With Terragraph, our goal is to enable people living in urban areas to access high-quality connectivity that can help create new opportunities and strengthen communities.”

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