What You Need to Know About HPUE and FirstNet
Monday, September 16, 2019 | Comments
Bob LaRose, vice president of business development at Assured Wireless, answers some frequently asked questions about high-power user equipment (HPUE). AT&T announced last month that it plans to test and roll out the technology to First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) subscribers.

What is HPUE? The international Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards group defined HPUE as power class 1, which has +31 dBm power output as opposed to the normal power class 3, which is +23 dBm. Sprint, a U.S. commercial wireless carrier, implemented power class 2 (+26 dBm) on its highest frequency bands to make up for propagation losses compared with its lower frequencies. The carrier calls it High Performance User Equipment and uses the HPUE acronym. Please do not confuse the two.

Who is authorized to use HPUE? Currently, HPUE is authorized only in the U.S. on Long Term Evolution (LTE) band 14. This LTE band is reserved for public safety and was assigned to FirstNet. AT&T was the successful contractor in the FirstNet bidding process and now has exclusive access to band 14. FirstNet users have priority on this band, however, all other AT&T customers can also use this band, subject to priority and pre-emption for first responders. HPUE capability can be especially useful for enterprise users operating in fringe coverage areas, areas of poor coverage or inside buildings.

What are the benefits of HPUE? LTE band 14 is in the 700 MHz sweet spot of the LTE bands, so it inherently has better range and coverage than the higher frequency LTE bands. In addition, the use of HPUE has been shown in field tests to increase the range of standard band 14 LTE signals by 80% and more than triple the coverage area of a base station. In addition, even at shorter distances, the reserve power provided by HPUE can optimize the signal to significantly improve data speeds, especially uplink speeds from the field. Uplink speeds are important to first responders when uploading video and other data-intensive communications from the field.

Who should consider using HPUE? All customers will see some benefit from HPUE, especially in optimizing uplink data speeds. However, customers that operate at the fringes of existing coverage or those that have previously been unable to connect outside of a normal coverage area will see the greatest benefits. This includes areas deep in buildings, basements, parking garages and other areas where coverage has been a problem.

What devices will be available to use HPUE? Initially, HPUE will be available for use in mobile and fixed devices. Assured Wireless is releasing two products — an embeddable module that can be installed inside of routers, gateways and other devices requiring LTE wireless access, as well as a USB device that can be plugged into existing routers, gateways and other devices requiring LTE access.

What carriers and bands will the Assured Wireless devices cover? AT&T is the only carrier authorized to operate at the HPUE power level and that can be done only on LTE band 14. The two Assured Wireless devices available provide HPUE capabilities on band 14 and cover all other AT&T bands with standard output power.

Are the HPUE devices simply amplifiers? No. Because of the stringent 3GPP specifications imposed on HPUE devices to prevent interference with other LTE and GPS devices, the design of an HPUE device requires a ground-up approach with tight integration between the LTE chipset and the power amplifier stage. In fact, the Assured Wireless design includes custom hardware and software modifications to existing LTE chipset designs, as well as a high-performance power amplifier and additional RF filtering.

Has the technology been field tested? Yes. The company developed and tested portable battery-powered HPUE hot spot devices that were compliant with 3GPP specifications. The equipment was tested in Brazos County, Texas, a rural area, and drive tests maintained a more than 3 Megabits per second (Mbps) uplink data rate 30 miles from a base station. The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications Systems (LA-RICS) tested the equipment in an urban in-building environment. A smartphone connected to the HPUE hot spot saw an 11.3 Mbps uplink data rate compared with the standard power user device connected to the network at a 1.7 Mbps uplink data rate. During drive tests in the Long Beach area with limited band 14 coverage with standard power devices, the HPUE unit extended coverage to the area.

Is the HPUE technology patented? Yes. Assured Wireless’ intellectual property on HPUE implementation is covered by several issued and pending patents. Assured Wireless is building the two devices previously noted and is working on licensing agreements with several large customers.

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Comments
On 9/18/19, Tomasz Wojtowicz said:
Just a clarification. I understand the HPUE as such is not patented as defined in the 3GPP standard but certain vendors like Assured Wireless, in this case, may have patents around certain implementation aspects of HPUE. So there might be another vendor that does HPUE and does not infringe any other vendor patents portfolios. In other words, HPUE is not tied to any vendor, in particular Assured Wireless, but part of the open standard.


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