COVID-19 Could Spur Demand for Fixed Wireless Access – Both 4G and 5G
Posted on April 8, 2020 | Pivotal Commware
- The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase demand for fixed wireless access (FWA) solutions to fill gaps in fiber broadband networks.
- 5G FWA has a mixed reputation but is improving; meanwhile, LTE-based FWA may be useful for serving some immediate needs
The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in a sudden and widespread explosion in telecommuting, as countless employees who can work from home now do. In many cases, these new telecommuters are using live videoconferencing tools that are sharing home-broadband bandwidth with children who have been sent home from school. The result is a sharp increase in home broadband needs. Where residences have access to fiber, these capacity needs may not be hard to meet. But fiber doesn’t reach every residence; any number of obstacles – including geographical or regulatory ones, or even sheer distance – might get in the way. Thus, demand is likely to increase deeply for fixed-wireless access solutions to fill in the gaps in fiber broadband networks.
FWA has gotten a lot of attention in recent years – not all of it good – as some operators, including Verizon in the U.S., used millimeter-wave solutions for 5G services. As operators around the world investigated the use case for 5G FWA, many have been daunted by millimeter-wave’s technological shortcomings, including limited reach, line-of-sight deployment requirements, and difficulty penetrating walls. These limitations strain the business case, requiring nodes close to end users and also often high up, on poles that aren’t always welcomed by the neighbors. Then once the signal reaches the house, cabling is often required to get the signal indoors. So it is not surprising that, of the many hundreds of mobile operators in the world, according to the GSA, only 35 have launched a 5G FWA service, and seven of those have limited availability.
The technology and its ecosystem are improving. For example, Pivotal Commware, a Seattle-area startup backed by Bill Gates, recently introduced a 5G mmWave customer premises equipment node, the Echo 5G, that is designed to be installed by end users, thus improving the 5G FWA business case by lowering operators’ deployment costs.
Interested? Check out our Careers page.