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5G FWA: navigating the capacity crunch with smarter devices

5G FWA: navigating the capacity crunch with smarter devices


Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) has emerged as a powerful tool to connect the unconnected, bringing high-speed internet to underserved areas where traditional fiber deployment is impractical. However, its continued success hinges on avoiding a “capacity crunch”, where demand for data starts to outstrip available radio network capacity. This is vital as FWA grows: it is predicted to serve more than 100 million users by 2027.

The FWA surge

Initial 5G deployments leveraged mid-band spectrum, serving both mobile and FWA users. While convenient, this approach faces challenges as FWA adoption skyrockets. FWA subscribers typically consume 20x more data than mobile users, leading to capacity constraints around cell towers with high FWA penetration.

How can you plan for the capacity crunch?

Capacity challenges can be predicted and overcome, starting with knowing where sufficient cell capacity exists before signing up new FWA subscribers. Cell capacity planning tools are available for this, using location data and RAN insight to determine the service level available. If capacity issues resurface, the same tools can automate cell site selection to ease capacity.

Optimizing capacity with advanced devices

FWA devices can also play a crucial role in tackling capacity constraints. High-gain antennas and carrier aggregation enhance signal strength and spectrum utilization. And the proper placement of devices within the home can boost network efficiency even further. Studies show a 60% reduction in wasted network capacity when using outdoor devices for weak signals and high-gain indoor devices for strong signals. Mobile apps can guide users to find the optimal location, minimizing retransmissions and maximizing capacity.

How can mmWave be an ally against capacity challenges?

For densely populated areas, 5G mmWave can provide a capacity overlay, serving nearby FWA subscribers and freeing up mid-band resources for mobile users and distant FWA customers. Case studies demonstrate successful coverage extension to 50% of homes within a cell radius using mmWave overlay, maximizing existing infrastructure. mmWave’s potential also extends beyond urban areas. A successful implementation for nbn in Australia, for example, proves the viability of mmWave for covering vast rural distances with clear line-of-sight.

Why is FWA a win-win for operators and users?

Investing in advanced FWA devices offers operators a competitive edge. Customers benefit from consistent high-speed internet access and a reliable home network experience while operators avoid capacity issues, and are therefore able to rapidly add new FWA users, improve network efficiency, and reduce support costs.

Managed resources

Effective capacity management is essential for FWA to fulfill its potential. By combining strategic spectrum utilization, next-generation FWA devices, and intelligent device placement, operators can navigate the capacity crunch and deliver a superior broadband experience to users in urban, suburban, and rural areas alike. The future of FWA lies in innovation and optimization, ensuring continued growth and closing the digital divide.