In October 2018, Verizon excitedly unveiled 5G Home as the world’s first 5G broadband service, but quickly ran into a show-stopping problem: The short distance of early millimeter wave 5G hardware made the service too expensive to roll out nationally. Today, Casa Systems is ready to get 5G broadband back on track with AurusAI, the first 5G consumer broadband modem with high-power millimeter wave support.

The key difference between AurusAI and earlier 5G broadband modems — “consumer premises equipment” (CPE) in industry parlance — is range. AurusAI is the first consumer product using the 2.36-mile/3.8 kilometer peak millimeter wave transmission technology discussed by Qualcomm and Ericsson last month, which the companies now expect will bring fiber-like speeds to rural, suburban, and urban users, not just ones in dense urban environments. Casa notes that its hardware was used in that record-breaking 5G data transmission and is now being trialed by top carriers and other industry partners.

Thanks to its combination of range and data speeds, AurusAI could help make 5G the solution of choice for small business and consumer home internet access. Assuming a carrier is willing to install millimeter wave small cells within a roughly 2-mile radius — much easier to consider than when the range was one-fourth as long — the outdoor unit can transmit at up to 1 gigabit per second, equivalent to the fastest wired home broadband connections most consumers can buy today. An Ethernet cable runs from the AurusAI 5G unit to an indoor router, sharing the bandwidth with multiple Wi-Fi devices.

AurusAI’s name might imply “artificial intelligence,” but it’s actually short for “autonomous intelligence.” Resembling an elongated, upside-down lightbulb, the outdoor unit is topped by an antenna array that rotates 360 degrees to automatically acquire the strongest millimeter wave signal — a process that continues past the initial installation. As a result, an installer can place the device without having to worry about millimeter wave antenna orientation; an installation app guides the technician to the outdoor area with peak strength, then the IP-66-rated weatherproof device rotates its antennas to adjust for the best possible performance at any given time. Casa consequently expects AurusAI deployments to require only half the time of prior CPEs, and less technician skill, while reducing the need for post-installation visits to make adjustments.

The only missing link at this point is broad-based deployment of millimeter wave towers, which have been installed in a small number of U.S. cities and are in the process of being rolled out in select Asian and European locations. While high band millimeter wave 5G is widely expected to be the catalyst for truly next-generation wireless services, factors including range, expense, and aesthetics have slowed the new hardware’s early rollouts, pushing most carriers to launch 5G with reduced speed low and mid band hardware instead.