FWA: A path to 5G profitability

5G mmWave is capable of supporting speeds in the multiples of Gigabits with sustained speeds that rival that of fiber. 5G mmWave brings true fixed-grade service to 5G, but there is a cost.

Some operators are looking to a combination of mmWave and sub-6 GHz in an effort to leverage the advantages of both. Mid-band 5G can be deployed quickly on existing base stations with capacity to support a 10 to 20 percent FWA take rate. Millimeter-wave can be deployed later, on the very same base stations, to boost capacity for subscribers within range while freeing up sub-6 GHz capacity for homes and businesses that are beyond the reach of mmWave. With 5G multi-connectivity, operators can combine 4G, 5G sub-6 and 5G mmWave to create a high-capacity, reliable connection to end users

What’s the use?

With 5G, fixed wireless access becomes the tool that it was always meant to be, providing solutions for different operators based on their unique needs. So which operators should put it into practice first? 

Many mobile operators face the very present challenge of eroding mobile broadband revenue. In some European markets, for example, mobile broadband pricing has dropped to as little as 7 Euro for 50 Gigabits of data per month. The network becomes overloaded, there’s little opportunity for differentiation, and the result is high churn for what has become a commodity service with small profit margins. FWA provides an opportunity to create more ARPU and reduce churn with a sticky bundle of home and mobile 5G services. FWA CPE can also serve to reduce the load on the network, since it delivers better radio efficiency with better antennas than mobile handsets. These higher category devices make better use of precious radio spectrum, wasting less and therefore connecting faster and connecting more.

Converged operators with legacy DSL networks that struggle to compete or to meet regulators’ requirements are looking to 5G FWA as a way to boost speeds without having to invest in new physical infrastructure. Subscribers get improved services and operators are able to reduce costs by retiring legacy DSL networks. This is especially helpful in regions with national broadband plans driving a need for rapid deployment of faster speeds. In these situations, 4G FWA can make an immediate impact.

Another compelling use case is for operators deploying FTTH. They now have an alternative to fiber in areas where it is too costly, complex, or time-consuming to deploy all the way to every home. Since 5G FWA can be deployed quickly, it can be a good tool for connecting homes ahead of a fiber build, preserving subscriber loyalty while the fiber network is being built. Subscribers can then move to fiber when it becomes available, freeing spectrum for other use cases in the future. In some cases where operators have nationwide RAN networks and regionalized fiber networks, FWA can even be used as a tool to compete out-of-region.

Finally, let’s not forget businesses. 5G FWA can hit the sweet spot for broadband services demanded by small and medium businesses, adding yet more revenue. For larger enterprises, it can be used to connect remote buildings or to provide a backup connection in case of failure of their fixed connection.

Ch-ch-ch changes

Even before the crisis with COVID-19, operators had been facing new challenges with more people working from home. The current situation has put unprecedented pressure on networks and will have a profound effect on people and economies. Network operators are now challenged to adapt to this change in behavior. The attitude towards broadband networks in the global economy has changed almost overnight, validating the investments that have been made while creating urgent demand. FWA can play a role here, too, with an efficient way to use precious radio spectrum and a very rapid deployment model that can connect homes and businesses anywhere that a RAN exists.

Whether it’s used as part of a mobile bundle to increase ARPU, connect homes that can’t be reached with fiber, compete out of region, or connect businesses, 5G FWA has the capacity to get the job done.


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