Operators racing to beat their competitors to 5G mobile services are, in some markets, using residential fixed wireless access (FWA) service to demonstrate leadership and boost their 5G credibility, according to GlobalData.
The company’s latest report: ‘5G Fixed Wireless – An Early 5G Use Case’ states that 5G FWA offers higher bandwidth than previous generations of fixed wireless, theoretically at lower costs once sufficient scale is reached. This in turn offers the ability to offer data speeds comparable to fiber in markets where deploying fiber is deemed too expensive.
Ed Gubbins, Mobile Infrastructure Senior Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Fixed-mobile integrated operators have shown particular interest in 5G FWA because it serves dual functions of enabling last-mile connectivity and providing a stepping stone to future mobile 5G. Fixed service providers have also shown interest in 5G.”
However, the technology has challenges, including in the spectrum bands envisioned for fixed wireless. According to Gubbins, “there has been particular interest in using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum for 5G, because of its high capacity and throughput potential. However, mmWave faces signal retention issues and limited propagation. These challenges are much more manageable at lower band sub-6 GHz spectrum; however, for fixed wireless, these bands are more likely to be used in rural areas.”
In addition to technical challenges, there is also an open question whether fixed wireless will ultimately become a widespread 5G use case. Gubbins concludes, “operators with existing fibre infrastructure, but which face difficulties in the high cost of last-mile delivery, are currently the most likely to benefit from 5G FWA to deliver last-mile services, but a successful 5G portfolio will need to include multiple services beyond fixed wireless to generate ROI. Vendors should address operator concerns about cost and longevity more directly, and with clearer timelines.”