Verizon 5G extenders will bring mmWave speed indoors

Verizon's mmWave 5G is one of the fastest ways to get online right now, but that's assuming you can actually find it. The carrier is aiming to make its 5G Ultra Wideband service more useable – particularly indoors, where mmWave struggles to penetrate – by offering extenders that will help bring its highest speeds to more locations.

5G Ultra Wideband, as Verizon has branded its mmWave service, is currently only available in select cities. Verizon says it will have 60 such locations by the end of the year, but even then service is heavily dependent on where you are compared to the positioning of its cell towers.

That's because mmWave supports very high speeds but primarily outdoors. Walls are a significant hurdle, blocking signals, and the cell sites themselves have restricted range. As such it's proved relatively slow and expensive to deploy, compared to low-band 5G. That isn't as fast, but it's much easier to roll out.

Verizon's solution is 5G extenders. The carrier has partnered with Movandi Corporation, Pivotal Commware, Inc. and Wistron NeWeb Corporation, it announced today, to offer extender devices that will bring mmWave 5G into public spaces, homes, and other buildings. "Not only can extenders expand coverage inside," Verizon suggests, "they allow more customers to add more devices to the network and enhance millimeter wave coverage at outdoor locations."

For example, Pivotal's Echo 5G subscriber repeater is a small antenna that is mounted onto a window. It's designed to be easy enough to install that customers themselves can do it, rather than having a Verizon tech come out, and act as a wireless repeater for mmWave service.

5G Ultra Wideband compatible phones, like the new Samsung Galaxy S20 5G UW which Verizon announced yesterday, will be able to seamlessly transfer from mmWave networks outside to the network indoors. For fixed wireless 5G, meanwhile – like the 5G Home service Verizon currently operates in a handful of cities, but plans to expand in due course – it should mean faster speeds for their home broadband replacement.

Movandi's BeamXR technology, meanwhile, also acts as a booster for mmWave 5G. It promises to boost in-building signals as well as "bend" 5G around obstacles which would traditionally lead to coverage deadspots. Verizon also plans to work with the company – along with Qualcomm and NXP – on new chipsets for 5G Home modems.

The news comes as Verizon lights up 5G uploads, having previously relied on 4G LTE for that. Those on a 5G Ultra Wideband connection will see their uploads use that now, instead. Verizon says that it should lead to roughly 30-percent faster transfers.