This blog post is part of a series called “CommScope Definitions,” in which we
will explain common terms in communications network infrastructure.
Fixed wireless access is the process of providing wireless broadband using
radio links between two fixed points. In
other words, fixed wireless is an alternate method of providing wireless internet
access to homes or businesses while eliminating the need for physical
connections (phone lines, cable, or fiber).
Consumer demand for broadband continues to grow at breathtaking
pace. New bandwidth intensive
applications, such as 8K video, virtual and augmented reality, and cloud computing
further compound the problem. Current
broadband technologies such as fiber-to-the-x (FTTx) and cable are well
suited to meet this growing demand.
However, delivering fiber to the home requires tearing up streets and
sidewalks, which can be expensive or simply not a viable zoning option in
certain neighborhoods. Additionally, FTTx
can also be cost prohibitive in sparsely populated areas. Therefore, operators are looking at alternate
means of delivering broadband at fiber-grade speeds using newer fixed wireless technologies.
CLICK TO TWEET: Learn the definition of Fixed Wireless Access from CommScope.
It is important to
note that fixed wireless
technologies (LTE, WiMAX, etc) have been around for quite some
time. However, these technologies are
spectrally inefficient, expensive to deploy, and unable to provide the speeds
needed to compete with wired broadband connections.
The next generation of 5G-based fixed wireless technology
is expected to hit data rates in the order of several Gbps, well within the
range of existing FTTx technology. A big
portion of the improvement in data rates between 5G and older technologies will
come from increased spectral capacity.
5G fixed wireless
networks are expected to utilize millimeter wave (mmwave) bands (28GHz, 37GHz,
39GHz, etc.) where larger chunks of contiguous spectrum are readily available
for use. In addition to increased
spectrum, 5G networks are also being designed to increase spectral efficiency
by orders of magnitude when compared to its 4G predecessors. Advanced antenna technologies such as massive MIMO (multiple-input
multiple-output), beamforming, and beamtracking will serve as key enablers.
Simply put: more spectrum + higher spectral efficiency = faster
While 5G fixed wireless present significant opportunities,
several challenges remain. Some of them
- Radio transmission in the mmwave bands is
inherently lossy. It is also highly
sensitive to environmental changes (foliage, rain, snow, etc.). Service
providers must plan for smaller cell sizes which will result in increased infrastructure
cost per household passed. Beamforming
and massive MIMO technologies are meant to alleviate some of those issues; however,
those technologies are complex and expensive.
- Higher propagation loses will also require customer’s
in-home gateway, also known as customer premise equipment, to radiate higher levels
of radio power to maintain an acceptable link.
New technologies should be developed to maintain adequate safety from RF
- State and local regulatory bodies must ease
zoning restrictions to accelerate operator’s ability to install radio units in
neighborhoods. Long zoning approval
cycles may further erode the business case.
- Governments, service providers, equipment manufacturers
and semiconductor vendors will all have to coalesce around a single 5G standard
within a set of globally harmonized spectrums.
Standardization will enable a robust ecosystem of multiple vendors helping
drive down costs.
Finally, it is important to note that 5G fixed wireless technology
is not mutually exclusive to other means of delivering high speed broadband. Fixed wireless, hybrid fiber cable,
xDSL and FTTx can co-exist with each other allowing service providers to select
from a wide array of options based on geography, customer needs, and commercial