Fixed Wireless is a part of 5G that many carriers want to roll out quickly. They see it as a new form of revenue and a way to compete with the cable companies. The cable companies see it as a way to extend the coverage that they already have and as a stepping stone to mobility.
Fixed wireless access, FWA, is already a solid part of the 5G deployment for a few reasons. It is in the higher spectrum, like 24GHz and 28GHz, where the carrier or cable company can set up a fixed access point and shoot it to several buildings or businesses or homes from one location. Now, it only makes sense in urban or a dense suburban area.
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 new income streams. 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? I hope not! Do we need someone like the DISH TV guys to put an antenna on the roof? Hopefully not in the city. 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. Now they are on steroids giving us speeds of 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 that we can set up in under an hour, and take with us if we move.
It is a fixed wireless access point talking to a fixed wireless subscriber point. A simple data connection. It’s that simple. It’s a way to extend the fiber from a fixed point to its destination without the cost of running fiber to each location. In theory, it should be cheaper.
Think of your internet access at your home. Many of you have cable modems or fiber or DSL or satellite. Fiber would be 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 final say!
That is where the wireless option looks attractive for many reasons. 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 on the location and distance to the BTS.
By the way, this has been done before with microwave connecting buildings for telecom services. It’s not new. It is just cheaper and faster and better. We are an all-IP network now which makes the transport invisible to the network. Now we have a spectrum that we can use with better technology. We can shape the broadband rollout to improve the broadband infrastructure in a profound way. The technology has arrived.
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) for this purpose. Also, 7GHz of the unlicensed spectrum from 64–71GHz. If you remember, some of these bands were used 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. Multipoint radios are becoming more and more available. Technology has come a long way!
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 advanced LTE being able to push the limits using carrier aggregation in the current spectrum and making new spectrum multipoint. Carrier aggregation and MIMO makes larger wireless broadband realistic.
With mmwave, we have very 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 think it could be the solution to getting large amounts of spectrum to building in a short time. The current systems are 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.
1Gbps links will make it possible to run 100Mbps to multiple homes from one cell, be it a small cell or a Macro. Macros and Wi-Fi can do that now. All the carriers are promising this.
- http://bgr.com/2017/01/04/is-5g-faster-t-mobile-att-sprint-verizon/ Where he says AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint all promised 1Gbps in 2017.
- http://www.rcrwireless.com/20160726/carriers/verizon-5g-trials-seeing-1-gbps-speed-expected-lower-costs-tag2 where they explain that Verizon already sees 1Gbps.
- http://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/sprint-cto-hints-at-1-gbps-class-speed-2017-challenge-to-t-mobile where Sprint promises 1Gbps.
- T-Mobile hits nearly 1Gbps in lab, https://www.wirelessweek.com/blog/2016/12/watch-t-mobile-hits-nearly-1-gbps-lte-lab-test
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.
Have the outdoor wireless connect to something simple and effective indoors. Let the people see the signal level for the outdoor connection, like DISH used to do, and make it broadcast Wi-Fi inside and offer wired Ethernet. If we can get this, life is great. We can connect our own router or use what they give us.
Let’s look at the 5G spectrum. I’m not sure if any of you saw it, but the 5G Americas group put together a great sheet on the 5G spectrum. I have the link so go ahead and download it.
Look at the new bands that the FCC is proposing to use:
- 24 GHz bands: 24.25-24.45 GHz and 25.05-25.25 GHz
- Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) band: 27.5-28.35 GHz, 29.1-29.25 GHz, and 31-31.3 GHz
- 39 GHz band: 38.6-40 GHz • 37/42 GHz bands: 37.0-38.6 GHz and 42.0-42.5 GHz
- 60 GHz bands: 57-64 GHz and 64-71 GHz (extension)
- 70/80 GHz bands: 71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, 92-95 GHz
I don’t see this spectrum as a mobile solution, but more of a fixed solution. That could change. This is going to be a thorn in the side of the cable and ISP business model. Why? It’s a new competitor that will have the reach. They have a large customer base. They know how to steal those customers. Remember, fewer millennials are watching traditional TV, they watch on demand as most of you do. Don’t deny it, do you really sit down and watch a show at the designated time or do you watch it on Amazon or Netflix or Zulu or with your DVR?
Of course, CBRS will also be a game changer. It will allow us to do more in the rural areas. I love this spectrum because it will be open to more than just the big bad carriers who rule the spectrum. Disruptors have a chance to create something great. This may be the most valuable of all because it may not require LOS, line of sight, as shown here, http://www.telecompetitor.com/fixed-lte-in-cbrs-band-not-expected-to-require-line-of-sight-for-fixed-wireless/ for the connections to be made. This opens new doors for connectivity. It’s real and exciting! Hey don’t take my word for it, ask Google, http://www.rcrwireless.com/20161117/carriers/google-sees-cbrs-spectrum-band-key-5g-new-model-industry-tag2, and they will vouch for this.
To be fair, the 5G Americas Spectrum document that I referenced above also has a quick blurb in it about CBRS, and I quote “Other bands of interest, From the point of view of global harmonization in the 3 to 5 GHz range as the main mid-range spectrum target for 5G, interests have been expressed in use of this range for 5G in the United States. This could potentially include current CBRS band (3.55-3.7 GHz) and beyond (e.g., up to 4.2 GHz).” The CBRS will play a large part because the carrier doesn’t want to deploy small cells everywhere, in fact, they are going to let that up to the business owners and landlords to do. They won’t admit this but I think they are looking for a neutral host solution and CBRS is a great solution! Licensed and protected and it could potentially have multiple carriers on one small cell. A multi-carrier small cell solution. If you think this is crazy, have you ever heard of Wi-Fi? Does it discriminate based on a carrier in your home? NOPE! It just connects, so this will be a stepped-up version of that where it will connect, but it may discriminate based on your carrier. Just apply the proper ID, or ESSID to connect.
Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!
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