Carolina West Wireless Preps for 5G

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Carolina West Wireless is enhancing its existing 4G LTE technology, and preparing for 5G in the process, Light Reading reported. The company’s network spans across 11 western North Carolina counties, and about a dozen retail outlets. Using around 300 cell towers, the company services 90,000 customers, with spectrum holdings of 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 850 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.1 GHz. As one of the first steps in preparing for 5G, the company will buy LTE and 5G equipment, as well as Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and WiFi calling services, from Ericsson.

Slayton Stewart, Carolina West Wireless’ CEO, said, ”Ericsson has been a long-standing partner of ours, and their end-to-end 5G-ready solution offerings allow us to provide our customers with the most advanced technology.” According to David Zylka, CTO of Carolina West Wireless, the company is working with Ericsson now to improve its existing 4G LTE networks using carrier aggregation and MIMO. During this process, the company will also prepare for 5G by installing Ericsson’s 5G ready-antennas and network equipment. Zylka said, “We owe it to ourselves to put down a foundation with this equipment that’s capable of doing both 4G and 5G, to set us up for the future.”

T-Mobile, Verizon, and other large carriers are also purchasing 5G-ready equipment from Ericsson and updating it. T-Mobile will roll out a nationwide 5G network in its own 600 MHz spectrum by next year, and Zylka said the company is considering a 5G roaming agreement with the carrier. If Carolina West Wireless moves forward with the agreement, the company’s customers would be able to use T-Mobile outside of North Carolina. The agreement has not yet been signed, and is only one option of many that the company will consider. Zylka predicts the company to move forward with 5G sometime within the next 18 months, depending on the agreement chosen.

Carolina West Wireless will deploy the “non stand alone” (NSA) version of 5G, which uses LTE’s IMS core, according to Light Reading. Although large carriers such as Verizon are already beginning to integrate a fully virtualized 5G core, Zylka said the company does not plan to advance past the IMS core network anytime soon. 5G operations with the unlicensed 3.5GHz CBRS band and the 600MHz band are currently being considered, and Zylka said the process will happen slowly. The operator will only pay a technician for one tower climb, so each climb will have to include installations for both 4G upgrades and 5G equipment. Zylka said the price of all of this is “reasonable,” but did not give specific numbers.

May 23, 2019

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