Slow broadband? Samsung’s wireless fibre “lampposts” could soon beam gigabit 5G straight into your home
Chances are you’ve heard of 5G. It’s the superstar successor to 4G that promises lightning fast web speeds on your phone. (If you haven’t heard of it, you can read our explainer on what is 5G)
But while the majority of conversations revolve around how 5G could give you Wi-Fi-style speeds on the go by 2020, its potential to revolutionise your home broadband is already being realised.
Samsung has developed 5G base stations that can deliver so-called “last mile” broadband connectivity to your home via lampposts or power lines on your street. “Last mile” is slightly misleading; Samsung currently has trials in the UK running over 230 metres, and a test case in its Suwon headquarters in South Korea over about 400 metres, but the principle remains.
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The tech giant’s base station transmitters can be fixed to lampposts (or trees, or any existing infrastructure) and deliver “beams” of 1Gbps signals over high-frequency wavelengths. The base stations themselves can deliver up to 10Gbps, and this aggregated speed can be divided via multiple beams Into multiple homes. Samsung would not reveal the maximum number of beams each station can deliver, telling Alphr it is a “trade secret.”
The benefits of the technology are three-fold. Firstly, the base stations could effectively replace the last portion of fibre that is currently used in ‘fibre-to-the-home’ (FTTH) services for a fraction of the cost and time. At the moment, installing FTTH typically comes with a fee to both the customer and the company as it needs to seek planning permission to dig up the road.
Secondly, the base stations work in a similar way to current substations found in neighbourhoods. The signal comes from its source via fibre cables to a single location. This single location splits the signal across connected homes. However, rather than losing signal as it travels over longer distances between the existing green box-style stations and the home, Samsung’s 5G substations beam signal straight to a receiver in your window from, in many cases, a box outside your home, effectively minimising the distance and the potential signal loss. All the base station needs is an Ethernet cable.
What’s more, this beam is “adaptive” meaning it will always seek out the best possible signal and receiving point, and it can bounce off walls and other objects without losing its strength. This means the transmitter and receiver don’t need to be in a direct line of sight to work.
The final benefit is that beyond individual homes, the technology could be fitted to the side of roads or trainlines to deliver 1Gbps across entire cities, removing (or at least reducing) the current issue of sketchy 4G and 3G coverage.
These base stations are, realistically, going to be the first major milestone in bringing 5G to the mass market. Samsung has already partnered with Verizon and AT&T in six cities across the US to trial the technology. In London, Arqiva has fitted a 5G antenna to its office in Fitzrovia and a receiver 230 metres away at secondary HQ and trials have seen multiple 4K videos being streamed simultaneously.
Samsung’s VP and head of advanced communications lab Wonil Roh gave Alphr the example that a full HD movie can theoretically be downloaded over 5G in 20 seconds, depending on the file size. With Samsung’s base stations, using 1GBps 5G, the technology could provide a staggering 25 4K streams to a house simultaneously from just a single beam connection.
Samsung said it is in talks with commercial partners, network operators and plans to expand its existing trials over the coming months. The first 5G standard is then expected to be finalised by mid-2018.
When asked if 5G could one day replace standard broadband, Roh said: “Will 5G kill broadband? No. Fibre and 5G are complementary. For the last mile coverage, connection can be well served wirelessly and Samsung wants to be the company to do it.”
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