While some are still sceptical of the longevity and performance characteristics of Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) as a usecase for 5G, Nokia thinks it could serve a very useful purpose for fibre rollout plans.
Although the case for fibre has been built and justified, forecasting where demand will actually be is still a tricky task. For every correct prediction analysts and forecasters make, we suspect there will be dozens of forgotten failed ones. But Stefaan Vanhastel, Head of Fixed Networks Marketing at Nokia, thinks there could be useful benefits from FWA in making economical and efficient fibre rollout plans.
Here is Vanhastel’s theory. Offering a gigabit FWA service to customers will meet the demands of tomorrow, and offer a bit of breathing room from those who demanding full-fibre connectivity. Monitoring the data consumption of customers who have taken up the service could indicate where the greediest users are, and therefore the greatest potential for strain on the network and bottlenecks. Once these areas have been identified, they can be the first to receive the full-fibre connectivity diet.
Although fibre is the perfect solution for our connectivity cravings at home and work, upgrading current infrastructure is not going to happen overnight. It is an incredibly expensive process, time consuming and fibre is a product which is in high-demand. The reality of fibre connectivity is that it will be a gradual rollout throughout the network. Connecting small cells with fibre is a tough enough ask, but the last-mile is where telcos will struggle the most. 5G FWA might offer a temporary solution, while also providing valuable insight to the areas which need full-fibre the most.
Of course, it’s always worth bearing mind Nokia has something to gain out increased FWA interest, though it is not the worst idea we have ever heard.
Telefonica’s UK business O2 might be avoiding convergence like the plague, but for its cousins in Germany, FWA is one of the biggest drivers for the adoption of 5G.
Speaking at Broadband World Forum in Berlin, Cayetano Carbajo Martín of Telefonica Germany is not fearful of the convergence distraction. In fact, it might just save the country from a connectivity embarrassment.
“5G implementation will be driven by different needs from fixed wireless access to ever increasing eMBB demand and even co-created new industry and service solutions,” said Martín.
As you can probably imagine, dealing with the tsunami of internet traffic is a big driver for 5G within Telefonica, but FWA is a long-term money making opportunity. In terms of the rate of growth, Martín highlighted traffic increased 160% over the last 12 months on O2’s network. Looking forward, even if you take a conservative estimate of 50% year-on-year growth, by 2027 internet traffic will be 38 times greater than it is today.
Looking at today’s resources, the network will hit full capacity by 2022 and the demand for new frequencies will become a necessity. And of course, these are conservative estimates not taking into consideration the unknown usecases of tomorrow. From a bandwidth perspective, 5G is increasingly becoming a necessity, with the deadline is becoming shorter and shorter.
This will also facilitate the telcos plans to venture into the FWA market. Martín highlighted there are no ambitions to explore the possibility of 4G FWA, it simply wouldn’t be able to compete with the experience of traditional broadband, though trials in Hamburg are readying the assault on the FWA space. If you listen to Martín, the opportunity is quite significant, with the CTO predicting 20-25% of Germany will convert to FWA, and perhaps this will dig Germany out of a hole.
Like the UK, Germany is one of those markets which has not glorified itself with an ambitious fibre rollout and is now playing catch-up. The FWA buzz which is beginning to build might just disguise a couple of blushed Bavarian cheeks should 5G-driven FWA be able to cover up the fibre-less cracks across the country.
What is worth noting though is FWA will not be the saviour many are plugging it to be. Some, no names mentioned, believe it might be able to bridge the connectivity gap between urban and rural environments, but this is exaggerated. The same financial pressures will be on FWA as there will have to be suitable population density to build the business case. FWA will not mean gigabit speeds will be democratized.
Even at what is supposed to be a fixed broadband conference, 5G has managed to muscle in on the action. It’s almost embarrassing how much its hogging the limelight.
The 5G euphoria might have reignited excitement for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) but Nokia doesn’t think we need to wait that long.
The FWA portfolio from Nokia isn’t new, here we’re talking about enhancements to products and solutions which are designed for 4G connectivity. What is worth bragging about is the simplicity of the portfolio, something which Nokia’s Head of Fixed Networks Marketing Stefaan Vanhastel thinks is critical for adoption.
“Fixed wireless access is all about ease of deployment, so need to make it is as easy as possible,” said Vanhastel. “We don’t want to send out engineers for every customer, but make the products all about deployability. Each of the announcement make by themselves are relatively minor, but when you bring everything together suddenly you have an offering which is appealing.”
FWA might be primarily a 5G conversation, though there is no reason the technology cannot be run over 4G networks. With 4G networks peak residential speeds beyond 100 Mbps are possible but not always achievable, though Nokia will be launching new antennas which it claims can improve performance. Nokia FastMile can help improve spectral efficiency by 4-5x, resulting in faster connections for residential users, more consistent performance at the cell edge and lower RAN costs. It starts to make 4G FWA a more viable proposition.
Another area of the portfolio which has received a power-up are the indoor gateways. Nokia is introducing new products which include high-gain antennas and 4X4 MIMO to increase performance. Some models are also claimed to be 5G upgradable. However, the most important point is ease of deployment; it is simply a plug-in device.
This for Vanhastel is one of the most important aspects of FWA. The usecase not only has to be built for the telcos, though this is a simple one with the cost of laying fibre, but also for the users. FWA is likely to be a considerable change for some customers, many of whom will know the pros and cons of mobile connectivity and coverage. Simplicity and ease of deployment will certainly come as an advantage over waiting for a couple of weeks for an engineer to show up.
Realistically most broadband connections across the UK do not reach the speeds which Nokia will suggest is capable over a 4G-FWA offering, but the task will be to convince telcos and users of the reliability of the offering. Should reliability be proven, it poses an interesting question; why should we have to wait for 5G when FWA is theoretically possible over 4G networks?
EE is set to green light its first 5G trial in London, testing out its fixed wireless access ambitions.
Five businesses and five homes will have the chance to test out EE’s 5G broadband capabilities as the telco shows us it’s not all about bufferless cat videos on the bus. The trial will see 5G switched on at ten sites around East London in City Road, Old Street, Hoxton Square, St Paul’s and Chiswell Street.
Although details of the trialists are thin at the moment, EE has hinted it will make use of social media to find them. If anything else, it’s an interesting idea to increase follows across the various platforms.
“This live trial is a big step forward in making the benefits of 5G a reality for our customers, and in making sure that the UK is at the front of the pack for 5G technology,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer business.
“We’re focusing our resource and experience across EE and BT to ensure that we continue to lead the UK market with a mobile network that keeps giving our customers the best speeds and the best coverage. 5G is a fundamental part of our work to build a converged, smart network that keeps our customers connected to the things that matter most.”
Of course it wouldn’t be a proper trial if a politician didn’t get the chance to show off the fluoride smile to the world.
“We want the UK to be a global leader in 5G as part of our ambition to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone,” said Margot James, Minister for Digital. “Together with the Government’s own test beds and trials programme, industry initiatives like this will help deliver the benefits of this new revolutionary technology to businesses and consumers across the UK.”
While the main buzz of the 5G euphoria has been centred around improving the experience on your smart phone or filling the roads with autonomous vehicles, the fixed wireless access use case has been seldom touched in the UK. It certainly has been a talking point elsewhere, Verizon just launched it offering in very limited pockets of the US, though now the UK telcos seem to be catching on.
In recent weeks, Vodafone outlined their plans and trials for the 5G world, unusually selecting two rural locations as test beds, Cornwall and the Lake District. The explanation here; there is a need to trial all sorts of different use cases in different environments, with fixed wireless access being one.
Of course, 5G broadband connectivity does not offer the same reliability or potential of fibre-based connectivity (at least not until we start talking about 6G/7G/8G…) but it is a genuine use case which can be brought to the market in the near future. While we will have to wait until mid- to late-2019 for 5G compatible smartphones, routers will be on the market much sooner.
It might not have been the blockbuster moment the industry has been building towards, but the dawn has broken on the 5G era.
Just to put that statement into perspective, this is a small launch, a handful of pockets in four US cities, and only available as a wireless broadband offering for the home right now. If you happen to be one of the few Americans living in the right area and fancy cutting the cord on your broadband connectivity, Verizon is up your street promising ‘typical speeds’ of 300 Mbps, and peaks of 940 Mbps. Houston, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles will be receiving the 5G treatment, with Sacramento gaining special attention.
“We were able to make Sacramento one of our first 5G cities because Mayor Darrell Steinberg and city leaders embraced innovation and developed a strategic vision for how 5G could be a platform for the larger Sacramento technology ecosystem,” said Jonathan LeCompte, Pacific Market President for Verizon. “We believe this vision will pay off big for the city, attracting new investment, businesses and next generation services for residents.”
Sacramento has seemingly been the most proactive of partners for Verizon, with the city hoping 5G can spur investment and growth in a variety of different industries, autonomous vehicles for instance, with the city recently announcing a partnership with Phantom Auto to prepare infrastructure to support teleoperation safety technology for driverless vehicles. Over the last 12 months, Verizon has installed small cells on more than 200 utilities poles and street lights.
“This is a significant day in Sacramento,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “When cities like ours partner with innovative businesses, investment follows. Not only has Verizon invested heavily to bring the latest network technology to our city, but they are partnering with us to focus investments on equity and economic opportunity for all neighbourhoods.”
While it is only available in a very, very small number of locations, it is a promising start. Those who signed up to be the first to receive the surface will be rewarded with a three-month free trial period before paying $70 a month (or $50 a month for existing Verizon customers) and the promise of no data caps. These customers will also receive a free Apple TV 4K or Google Chromecast Ultra device at installation.
Irrelevant to the size of the launch, Verizon now has the bragging rights of being the first in the US to deliver 5G to customers. Competitors will argue this is not the promised 5G experience, and no-one will be able to deliver the 5G bonanza until compatible mobile devices hit the market next year, but that is beside the point. Verizon can now run as many in-your-face adverts as it wants, boasting about beating all the other telcos in the world in delivering 5G to the consumer. It’s a nuance, but it is not incorrect.
US operator Verizon is using the limited launch of a new fixed wireless access service to claim victory in the 5G race.
Verizon 5G Home is more fully described as ‘the world’s first commercial 5G broadband internet service,. It will be made available in parts of LA, Sacramento, Indianapolis and Houston 1 October, presumably targeted at people whose fixed broadband is sufficiently rubbish for them to give FWA over millimetre wave a go.
5G is already the most over-hyped thing since the Y2K bug so Verizon seems to have decided to just ride the wave. Of course 5G for most people is a mobile (as opposed to fixed) technology, but that’s not going to stop Verizon’s marketing department. On top of yet another ‘first’ claim, Verizon gets to bang on about the infrastructure that makes it possible.
“To deliver the full potential of 5G, a wireless network provider must have three fundamental assets: deep fibre resources, a large deployment of small cells and critical spectrum holdings – that’s Ultra Wideband,” said Kyle Malady, Verizon’s CTO. “We will deliver a revolutionary 5G experience that will change how people live, work and play.” Sounds more like an 80s Mars advert, but there you go.
“5G is here,” said Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. “To be first, we encouraged others in the ecosystem to move more quickly at every step. We appreciate the partnership of network equipment makers, device manufacturers, software developers and chip makers in reaching this critical milestone. The entire wireless industry gets to celebrate.”
We’ll see about that Hans. MWC Americas, which starts today, is set to be an orgy of competing 5G firsts and who’s to say that might not get a bit heated as attendees spill out into the LA bars. But credit where it’s due, this does seem to be the first commercial service using some kind of 5G tech, so Verizon is entitled to crow. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Now with added video!
Operator group Orange took its mate Cisco and Samsung on a road-trip to northern Romania to show off its 5G multi-vendor fixed wireless access skills.
Orange says the test is the first of its kind in Europe and is a key step in the development of 5G in the region. At its core it seems to be a classic FWA set up, but using 5G architecture and millimetre-wave spectrum. The radio base station of the virtualized access network connects through fiber to the virtualized Core network installed in the Orange datacenter.
It took place in a village called Florești, near the town of Cluj, which is apparently the capital of the province of Transylvania. 15 Orange residential customers got to live the 5G FWA dream, which also involved Samsung 5G ‘terminals’ (which seems to mean small cells in this case) and Cisco routers.
“This is a test which brings us closer to the future, an opportunity to better understand the way in which technology works in real usage environment conditions, the challenges that we can face while deploying new technology and the benefits it can bring to both our residential and business customers.” said Liudmila Climoc, CEO of Orange Romania (pictured, center).
Perhaps seduced by the prospect of encountering vampires, Iain Morris of Light Reading flew over to Transylvania to witness the demo first hand. And it looks like his wish was granted, in a way, because among the Orange execs he met was one Arnaud Vamparys. You couldn’t make it up! You can read more about his Romanian road-trip here.