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5G Technology: A Workable Solution to Fixed Wireless Broadband in the U.S.

By CIOReview | Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Long term evolution (LTE) technology is incorporated globally, focusing on areas with poor wireline network infrastructure. With the dawn of 5G wireless technology, it could open the doors for more opportunities for the fixed wireless broadband segment.

Mobile network operators continue deploy 5G network infrastructure, and with the commercial launch of 5G wireless broadband increasing in few years, it will ultimately push the 5G fixed wireless Consumer Premise Equipment (CPE) market. The shipments of 5G fixed wireless broadband CPE will reach more than 2 million units in 2020, according to ABI Research.

Implementing 5G fixed wireless broadband networks instead of last-mile fiber connectivity will save costs and time to install fiber-optic lines while providing Gigabit capacity broadband access. 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) offers some benefits to both telecom network operators and consumers.

"Interestingly, except for China and a few other developed markets, fiber-to-the-home penetration is still limited to less than 20 percent of total households worldwide. This creates a huge opportunity for the whole 5G fixed wireless broadband market," said Khin Sandi Lynn, an analyst at ABI Research.

Verizon initially launched its 5G Home broadband in four U.S. cities in 2019 and is now planning to expand to areas with a 5G mobile network footprint. Meanwhile, T-Mobile is also planning to commercially introduce a 5G broadband service to home users with its nationwide 5G network launch.

Operators like Vodafone, Three UK, EE in Europe, and Rain in South Africa have deployed a 5G FWA service, and many service providers across the world are also working towards the commercial release of 5G fixed wireless broadband services.

Chipsets and device makers are also playing pivotal roles in the 5G FWA space. Qualcomm partnered with more than 30 OEMs to develop 5G FWA CPE, and device makers such as Huawei, NetComm, Nokia, and Samsung have already introduced 5G FWA CPE.

5G FWA services need different forms of CPE, the selection of indoor or outdoor, mmWave, or Sub-6GHz, according to the deployment strategy. Device makers should support various form factors and specifications to meet service provider requirements.

Incorporating advanced Wi-Fi features, the potential to connect to smart home devices, and in-home Wi-Fi management solutions benefit end-users as well as create differentiating components for service providers.

"5G technology offers high bandwidth and ultra-low latency to attract xDSL broadband users, however, well-designed CPE with value-added features is essential to winning the highly competitive broadband game," Lynn said.

The wireline broadband service is expensive in the U.S. market as compared to more progressive countries, and the telco and cable duopoly have no incentive to compete. Rolling out 5G fixed broadband services could free these captive markets, helping create meaningful progress.