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Looking for faster #5G mmWave rollout? Find out how #IAB will help!


With the introduction of high-band mmWave frequencies in 5G, radio propagation does not travel as far as low bands. Signals can potentially be blocked by buildings, foliage and even human bodies. This means that networks will need to be densified to maintain coverage and reliability.  Inter-site distances of less than 100m will be common.  Many 5G mmWave deployments will require fiber-like connectivity to meet the cell densification requirements.  The issue is that typical fiber penetration does not match the required inter-site distances.

To mitigate this issue, 3GPP is looking to leverage the same mmWave frequencies used for mobile access as a wireless backhaul alternative to reduce site backhaul costs.  This technology, called Integrated Access and Backhaul (or IAB), shares the same mmWave spectrum at a cell site used by mobile devices to also deliver backhaul connectivity from one cell site to another.  By using IAB, operators can provide faster and cost-efficient method for deploying 5G sites without the need to densifying the fiber transport network to support it.  It can also be used to remediate isolated coverage gaps, to enhance capacity, to bridge coverage from outdoor to indoor, or to enable group mobility.


IAB works by connecting a fiber link to 5G base station which acts as an access point hub called the IAB-donor base station.  The IAB-donor site uses the mmWave spectrum to connect to a 5G relay self-backhauled access point base station called the IAB-node.  The IAB-node then either provides the wireless connection to the mobile user equipment or connects to another IAB-node for multi-hop deployments.  Using this approach operators can support various IAB deployments such as Building-to-Street and Street-to-Street scenarios.

5G mmWave

Nokia Bell Labs has conducted IAB simulation studies using a downtown Chicago urban residential area as a model and has gained some significant experience with this technology.  Our analysis has shown that IAB is effective tool to meet coverage needs for 5G mmWave.  Deployment areas with limited existing fiber drops may be augmented with wireless nodes and at lighter loads, such as during initial rollouts, IAB is very capable of improving coverage.  At higher loads additional fiber nodes may be required to bring capacity to the most congested areas.

As with any backhaul plan, IAB is one tool in the deployment tool chest.  Delivering backhaul needs will require a mix of wireless IAB nodes, microwave radio solutions, new fiber, and other transport techniques that are needed to meet coverage and capacity targets.  As the IAB standards get finalized in 3GPP Release 16 and 17, Nokia is looking to add IAB to our mmWave portfolio by delivering a solution that reduces total cost-of-ownership and accelerating 5G rollouts by reducing fiber dependency for 5G radio deployments.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia or @nokianetworks using #5G #IAB #NOKIA

Paul Norkus

About Paul Norkus

Paul is pushing the boundaries of product marketing for Nokia the way Nokia is pushing the boundaries of 5G. He has an MBA from Olivet Nazarene University and a Bachelor's Degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering from Purdue University.

Tweet me at @PaulNorkus

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