Last week, Facebook and Nokia announced their partnership to accelerate the adoption of 60 GHz fixed wireless access technologies to deliver high-speed broadband connectivity in urban or suburban areas, complementing current fiber. Nokia’s will bring its wireless passive optical network (WPON) and worldwide delivery abilities to Facebook’s Terragraph technology to launch several global broadband trials later this year with a select group of customers.
Nokia’s WPON technology offers a wireless gigabit drop to the home for broadband access networks. The Terragraph technology, which Facebook brings to the table, is a 60 GHz, multi-node wireless system, which offers low costs for high-speed wireless access. The two technologies working in combination will give broadband providers the chance to wirelessly deliver gigabit services over larger areas with high rates of reliability and meet a growing demand for ultra-broadband access.
The Finnish company, which for fourteen years was the world’s biggest handset maker, may have sold off the phone business it was known for in 2013, but it remains a big company (it had net sales of $26.1 billion in 2016) and has turned its attention towards the infrastructure that underpins the Internet.
Last year, Nokia launched its wireless PON (WPON) solution, further growing its fiber-to-the-most-economical-point toolkit. Wireless PON is centered on 802.11ad WiGig technology and offers a wireless drop for fiber-to-the-home networks. Access points are mounted on utility poles, street lights or building facades, and WPON helps Nokia deliver gigabit-per-second speeds to a self-installable WPON Home unit. By using WPON instead of bringing fiber into each home, broadband providers can save on up-front investment costs and deploy faster service much more quickly.
Facebook’s Terragraph was first announced in April 2016, as part of Facebook’s mission to connect the remaining four billion people on earth without the Internet. Terragraph is designed to increase bandwidth in cities. It deploys a mesh of WiGig transmitters, which can be attached to buildings and utility poles to make up a wide-area IPv6 network. At the client end, small cell and WiFi transceivers can be used to pick up the signal and connect to the WiGig network in order to route through the Internet. The reasoning is that making use of this kind of ad-hoc network should be significantly easier than deploying formal mobile telecoms coverage.
The collaboration between the two companies gives Facebook access to Nokia’s backhaul technology and Nokia access to Terragraph’s wireless part of the network. Terragraph brings mesh routing, multi-hop support and high reliability to the air interface. In the press statement, the companies also announced that they would be working together to “accelerate IEEE’s 802.11ay industry standard, leveraging Nokia’s Wireless PON innovation and Terragraph’s efficient TDMA scheduling capabilities”.
The Register commented this “will also support Facebook’s other ambition: having Terragraph technologies written into the coming 802.11ay standard”. The IEEE published the earliest drafts of 802.11ay in Q1 2017, and just reached Draft 1.0 status in November. The proposed standard claims raw data transmission rates at up to seven Gbps, and a physical layer intended for low power transmission.
In the press statement, both companies made accompanying comments:
Yael Maguire, VP of Connectivity, Facebook, said: “Terragraph is designed to help providers deploy fast and reliable connectivity for people in urban areas. Our partnership with Nokia will help advance Terragraph by building a robust, open ecosystem of interoperable commercial solutions based on 60 GHz technologies.”
Federico Guillén, president of Nokia Fixed Networks, said: “It is definitely exciting when two companies like Nokia and Facebook join their innovation strength to bring new technologies to market. Fixed-wireless access is gaining ground and perfectly complements our multi-technology mix to bring gigabit broadband to more people, sooner.”