Fixed Wireless Access Overview

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What is Fixed Wireless Access? What is FWA? What is the future of fixed wireless? Will FWA replace FTTH? Will FWA replace FTTx? Will the carriers roll out FWA to compete with the cable companies? Read on to learn the answer to all of these questions!

Chances are it will take off, in fact, the major carriers are counting on it!

Is 5G mostly fixed wireless? Some of it will be, along with IOT, massive broadband, augmented reality, and surprising mobility.

Will fixed wireless replace fiber to the home? The carriers are hoping it does because of the cost effectiveness and the ease of installation.

Will fixed wireless replace cable modems? Again, the carriers are betting on this, and the cable companies know this, they know that can do something and finally enter the wireless arena, for real this time.

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Fixed wireless access, FWA, is going to be a game-changer in so many ways. It is going to be part of the 5G network slicing that we have all heard about. There is a spectrum, like CBRS, mmwave, and CMwave that will make it or break it. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint already are testing this on MIMO antennas. They are counting on a new income stream. The question will be, what is the ease of install to the end-user, the consumer, you and me? Do we still need someone to come out and wire up the house? Do we need someone like the DISH network guys to put an antenna on the roof? Alternatively, maybe, can we just put a unit in the window that could receive the licensed or lightly licensed signal then transmit Wi-Fi in the home? Wouldn’t that be cool? Just like the wireless modems we used to know only on steroids giving us speeds of over 50Mbps and up. That is the dream right, bad weather or good, power or no power (UPS backup) that businesses and homes have massive broadband with under an hour 5g-deployment-plan-front-cover-3k-pixelsof setup.

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What is fixed wireless? Think of your internet access at your home. Many of you have cable modems; some have fiber to the home, FTTH, which you may call Verizon FIOS or AT&T U-Verse. The wired solutions are expensive for the larger companies to deploy, just ask Google who thought they could do it for less money but learned the hard way that physical attachment to poles takes more than just goodwill to the city. I talked to my friend in Nashville where the poles had rights of refusal by AT&T and the local cable companies that did NOT want Google to play in their neighborhoods. It did not matter what the city said; whoever had rights to the poles had the last word!

That is where the wireless option looks so attractive for so many reasons and 5G technology, like cmwave, mmwave, and CBRS can help make this happen. We still need fiber, that part is crucial, but we do not need to run it to every home. There is an opportunity to build out FWA to the home using 3.5Ghz or 28GHz, all depending o the location and distance to the BTS.

By the way, this has been done before with microwave connecting buildings for telecom services; this is not new. It is just that now we have a way to get it to each business and we are an all-IP network now. This technology is available today and being done by point to point microwave as well as multipoint systems. It is just now we have a spectrum that we can use with newer and better technology. We have the opportunity to shape the broadband rollout to improve the broadband infrastructure in a profound way. The technology has arrived.

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Can we get more spectrum? It looks like the US FCC took the first steps, they have opened 28GHz (27.5–28.35GHz), 37GHz (37–38.6GHz), and 39GHz (38.6–40GHz). It is something that we can use, I hope. Also, 7GHz of the unlicensed spectrum from 64–71GHz. If you remember, some of these bands were utilized in the past to deliver point to point, PTP, microwave for building access. Now that the equipment is changing and becoming more cost-effective, it can be used in new applications. MIMO antennas and systems are also helping the cause. Technology has come a long way!

I am looking forward to having fixed wireless rollout. If we can get broadband to the homes without cables or fiber running through the house, how cool would that be? If small businesses could have broadband in their stores and homes without waiting for fiber to be deployed, how great would that be? If we could only have a unit that we could put on a window facing one antenna outside and have the Wi-Fi inside, life would be grand! I think this is coming.

The carriers are pushing to get fixed wireless out to the public. They have been trying to work with several technologies. Whatever they work with it looks like LTE will be the foundation of the format. It could be mmwave or spectrum they have for LTE today. The carriers will tell you that this is 5G, but it has more to do with LTE being able to push the limits using carrier aggregation in the current spectrum and making new spectrum multipoint. Carrier aggregation makes that look realistic. I think Sprint is in a great position with all the 2.5GHz spectrum they have to pull this off quickly. If only they would spend the money to do it.

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With mmwave, we have large bands. The great news is that it could be deployed quickly. I think it will be lightly licensed because the coverage area is so small. I also believe it could be the solution to getting large amounts of spectrum to building in a short time. The current systems are a point to point, but they are rolling out multipoint systems. There is an article in Gigabit Wireless that helps to explain more about mmwave and the multipoint technology in that band.

I believe that 1Gbps links will make it possible to run 100Mbps to multiple homes from one cell, be it a small cell or a Macro. Although only a Macro can do that now, it has to improve. All the carriers are promising this.

I believe that we will see a fixed wireless solution very soon. I believe that 100Mbps to the house via a wireless link is very realistic. This will be a game changer that will have a dramatic effect on our daily lives. With my cable modem, I feel I get pretty good speed, today I tested it and got 67.3Mbps down and 11.9Mbps up. I am happy with this at home, today, which I show from Google’s internet speed test on Comcast, shown below. Way to go Comcast!

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If I get fixed wireless, will it work this well? I hope so. As you can see, it must give about 100Mbps to each home. The cable company can do this today and more. Verizon and AT&T both offer this over fiber and more. If they do it with LTE, I see TDD working better the FDD so that they can proactively balance the upload and download speeds. That is why Sprint has a prime spectrum with their 2.5GHz band. This band travels well and would work great as a fixed wireless platform.

The question now is, is it cost-effective to use FWA over other technologies? The installation and setup will determine that. That is why I say KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid! The key is to make the installation so easy that anyone can do it, as the end-user. If someone has to pay $1,000 for an installation, it may not be cost-effective. Most companies may do this for 100Mbps of service but at home people bitch over paying the cable company to come out and install their equipment for a few hundred dollars. I know I do. Especially when you are paying hundreds a month for service. Home users want value at an affordable price. However, home businesses rely on reliability, so make it very reliable. Price and reliability which will be determined by competition, which is one thing that the cable companies do not have right now. Seriously, whoever has a connection to your home is the winner, and cable modems are way faster than DSL. Will that change with FWA? Will cable be competing with the wireless carriers? Of course.

If they can make the installation simple, easier than hooking up my phone, I would be happy. I do not see why not. Have the outdoor wireless connect to something straightforward and efficient indoors. Let the people see the signal level for the outdoor connection, like DISH used to do, and make it broadcast Wi-Fi inside. Preferable Wave 2 with the ability to connect an indoor router via wired Ethernet. Then life is great!

Will this be easy for the carrier or service provider to do, not really? However, would it be easy for the cable companies to roll out, definitely yes? They have the infrastructure to make this happen. They could deploy the radios efficiently and quickly. They have the workforce and the structure to handle business and residential. If only they had the spectrum. If only the cable companies would move into the wireless realm. They would be a force to be reckoned with. They already have a huge customer base, and they have the core and the support centers. I think that cable companies are positioned well. Will they roll something out? If they can get in on the CBRS or the mmwave or the

I just heard an interview with John Legere where he explains, (I am paraphrasing) how companies are identified by their infrastructure, wireless or cable, and the end-user could care less. I agree with this. I think that people just want broadband when they need it, whether it is home or on their device or in a coffee shop. I agree with Legere when he explains how mobile is taking over and that people just want to have a great connection. He has been on fire lately because T-Mobile has had a kick ass year and he will not stop. He turned T-Mobile into a player, putting Sprint behind him and making AT&T sweat.

I want to congratulate John Legere and T-Mobile for winning a ton of 600MHz spectrum in the recent auction, great job T-Mobile for getting national coverage after all this time. He says “Little Ole T-Mobile, ” but they are not little anymore, in any way.

For more look at all the John Leger interviews listed below.

I think that he makes an excellent point. I believe that the internet providers will be listed as providers and as companies like Google will be media providers. I think that AT&T is trying to play both sides. There are going to be providers of the service and providers of the content. Who is going to win in the upcoming battle? I am not sure but we need to stop looking at cable companies and carriers for service their specific audiences, and they will start service everyone. Barriers are coming down, and the gloves will come off.

Will cable companies merge with carriers to remain competitive? Probably, look at Comcast working with Verizon and AT&T taking over DirecTV. Competition is rising. Comcast has the money to start their wireless system or take over a player like T-Mobile, but will they spend the money? They have not so far, but the playing field is changing, and Comcast sees the writing on the wall. It is time to make something great happen!

As a final note, and a way for me to bring smart cities into this. I believe that all smart cities want competition in broadband, they want the service everywhere in their cities so the FWA will make that option a reality of the carriers build the entire city. All areas of the cities need to be served, not just the business districts or the upscale neighborhoods. I get that the carrier wants payback, but we need to blanket cities to give everyone an equal opportunity! This is making broadband the new infrastructure backbone of America and giving us all an opportunity to play. Let’s make something great happen!

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!

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