Verizon’s IAB Plans to Provide Faster 5G Deployment, Remote 5G Coverage for Responders
Tuesday, July 14, 2020 | Comments
Verizon announced a successful test of its Integrated Access Backhaul (IAB) technology, which executives said will help the carrier more quickly deploy 5G coverage across its network and provide 5G coverage to public safety through deployables. Additionally, Verizon announced the five companies participating in the next cohort of its 5G First Responder Lab.

The IAB solution allows the company to use its millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum — the 28 and 39 GHz bands — to provide wireless backhaul from a 5G node on the network to a node that does not have fiber running to it.

As Verizon builds out its 5G Ultra Wideband (UWB) solution, IAB technology could help the provider more quickly increase its 5G coverage by not requiring every node to have fiber to it right away. While fiber is a key component to a network, it takes time to deploy fiber to sites, said Bill Stone, Verizon vice president of technology and planning.

IAB technology is part of Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 16, just finalized earlier this month.

With IAB technology, the carrier can use its large quantity of mmWave spectrum to provide a wireless backhaul to a new 5G node and get that node up and running before fiber is run to that node. Verizon has about 1 gigahertz of mmWave spectrum nationwide, which allows it to continue to provide regular service to customers while still having plenty of spectrum left for the backhaul, Stone said.

“Wireless backhaul is not new, but typically you have to go out and install a new antenna,” he said.

Instead, with IAB technology, the backhaul capabilities are built into the radio at the node. Once Verizon begins using IAB technology in its 5G deployment, the technology will help get nodes up before fiber can be run to the site. Generally, the sites will eventually receive fiber, but there may be some areas where it does not make sense to run fiber to the site, so a few sites may continue running entirely on the wireless backhaul, Stone said.

Verizon also envisions that IAB technology will provide greater 5G coverage to public safety through deployables. If an emergency or event happens outside of the normal 5G coverage, Verizon can send a deployable to the area, and as long as it is within range of another 5G node, the deployable can provide 5G coverage through IAB, Stone said.

“It can open up a whole new list of different capabilities that we can provide to responders in the field,” he said.

So far, Verizon has done small-scale testing on IAB technology with Ericsson in California. That testing involved a few nodes and was successful. Verizon plans to continue testing IAB technology and expects that the capability will be included in products within one to two years, said Stone.

“We’re working with our vendors,” he said. “This is something that is all in their road maps, and we’re pushing them aggressively to include it in their products.”

5G Responder Lab
In addition to the successful IAB test, Verizon also announced that Biotricity, Rave Mobile Safety, Dispatch Health, Vuzix and Visionable were selected to participate in the fourth cohort of the carrier’s 5G First Responder Lab program.

Verizon launched the 5G First Responder Lab in 2018 as a way to ensure that first responders have access to the latest technology and the benefits of 5G. Through the program, the carrier works with participants to develop technology — mobile apps, software and hardware — to support first responders.

Participants gain access to Verizon’s virtual labs, physical labs depending on the status of the coronavirus pandemic, and network engineers and resources.

“They get to talk to and work with the people who are actually designing our network and building the network,” said Nick Nilan, Verizon director of public sector product development.

That connection helps participants ensure that they are creating a product that effectively takes advantage of the capabilities of Verizon’s network, Nilan said. Additionally, Verizon helps program participants with their go-to-market strategy and uses its business relationships to help those participants in their commercialization strategies.

This current cohort of the program varies in several ways from previous groups. The first three cohorts focused on public safety in general but after consulting with its public-safety advisory council and public-safety customers, the carrier decided to focus this group specifically on EMS, Nilan said.

Additionally, this cohort will participate longer than previous cohorts. Previous groups in the programs averaged around 12 weeks, but the fourth cohort will cover six months. While the focus of the program is on 5G, Verizon works with participants to ensure that products developed through the program are useable with 4G as well as 5G.

“We’re always planning for the future while meeting the needs of today,” said Nilan. “We want to make sure that where the 5G network doesn’t exist where users are, we can fall back on 4G.”

Biotricity focuses on near real-time remote medical monitoring, Visionable is building a platform for real-time medical collaboration, and DispatchHealth is working on a platform that provides on-call medical care to a patient’s door. Rave’s product is a critical communications and data-sharing platform, and Vuzix is creating an augmented reality (AR) headset that can keep medical staff informed while keeping their hands free.

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