Facing restrictions in the United States due to national security concerns, China’s leading smartphone maker Huawei announced today that Canadian carrier Telus is live-testing Huawei 5G equipment in Vancouver homes. The companies’ in-home testing is said to be the first of its kind in North America, bringing 5G from the “lab to the living room” and setting the stage for a future commercial launch of fixed 5G service in Canada.
According to Huawei, the tests are based on new wireless Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), giving users a “fiber-like experience with their home network.” The CPE relies on 28GHz mmWave frequency broadcasting, next-generation signaling technologies, and Massive MIMO antennas to deliver over 2Gbps speeds. Huawei expects that mmWave technology will enable cost-effective 5G coverage in neighborhoods and small communities, increasing accessibility for urban and suburban customers.
The race to quickly deploy “fixed 5G” — in-home or in-business wireless service as a replacement for wired broadband — is now a two-country competition in North America. Verizon has announced plans to bring fixed 5G service to several U.S. cities this year, beginning with proprietary, non-standards compliant 5G hardware. By comparison, Huawei says its CPE hardware complies with 3GPP’s global 5G standard, though its footprint is currently limited to Telus employees and is not on the same city-wide scale as Verizon’s 2018 rollout. Telus has previously said that it expects 5G to be commercially available in 2020, with Vancouver residents getting “early access” to some 5G technologies.
Huawei’s announcement comes as U.S. carriers and consumers are being actively warned by government agencies to avoid using Huawei cellular hardware based on security fears. Last month, members of Congress pushed carriers, including AT&T, to cut business ties with Huawei, and yesterday six U.S. intelligence agencies told citizens not to use Huawei phones. Each of the Chinese manufacturers is said to have covert ties to China’s government, allegedly putting the security of data transmitted through their mobile devices and networking gear at risk. As 5G is expected to be used in everything from autonomous cars and traffic systems to manufacturing plants and city infrastructures, the security threats posed by foreign governments could quickly go from abstract to tangible and major.