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mmWave Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)

Busting the myths around mmWave Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)


During the early days of 5G, it was 5G mmWave that was making the headlines. Its promised performance and speed set expectations so high that no spectrum could live up to them. When midband airwaves became available, it was no surprise that they quickly were dubbed the “goldilocks” spectrum and became the primary vehicle for 5G mobile and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) deployments. The midband is a strong anchor for 5G networks and has helped to establish a thriving 5G FWA customer base that already numbered more than 11 million worldwide in 2023, with the U.S. leading the way. 

With an additional six years of 5G development, however, it’s time to take a fresh look at mmWave and debunk some of the myths that still persist from the early days. 

Is mmWave FWA too costly for dense urban areas?

The first myth is about the cost of deploying mmWave. The fact is, mmWave can be used almost anywhere – urban, suburban and rural areas – without the need for costly network densification. Independent testing in outdoor environments by Signals Research Group has found that “5G mmWave coverage is surprisingly robust and doesn’t necessarily require significantly higher cell densities compared to the existing cell grid.” (1) This means that mmWave can be leveraged for cost-effective FWA deployment in multiple geographies, and is particularly effective as a capacity overlay that serves nearby subscribers and frees midband spectrum to serve customers who are further away. 

Can 5G mmWave serve rural areas?

This leads us to busting myth #2. 5G mmWave can cover distances of more than 10 km in the right rural environment. UScellular has successfully used the 28 GHz spectrum on its commercial network in Nebraska to achieve a world record distance of 10 km with average FWA downlink speeds of about 1 Gbps, and 750 Mbps downlink speeds at more than 11 km. Australian operator nbn is using mmWave FWA CPE to extend its FWA footprint to residences previously only served by satellite, offering gigabit speeds to premises within 7 kilometers of a radio base station.

Can mmWave be used in non-line-of-sight situations?

This myth has been busted through advances in radio technology. mmWave FWA can now be used in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) conditions if the CPE has very high-gain antennas, especially when combined with a 360° field of view. Some 5G FWA receivers on the market today also use advanced algorithms to enhance FWA in NLOS conditions by enabling them to form a reliable and performant connection on reflected signals. 

Can mmWave FWA overcome environmental obstacles?

Advanced mmWave FWA solutions can avoid environmental disruptions to service by scanning the environment and selecting the best available signal. In the case of environmental changes such as foliage growth, they automatically redirect to the next-best signal. This maintains a high-quality service and satisfied customers, while avoiding the cost of service truck rolls.

5G mmWave FWA comes of age

The maturation of FWA technology, plus smarter deployment practices, means that mmWave can do so much more than serve dense urban deployments. A mixed-spectrum FWA strategy that includes mmWave can provide high capacity and satisfy customer expectations at relatively low cost.

Explore how Nokia FastMile busts the myths of mmWave here.


(1) How 5G NR mmWave provides critical additional network capacity; Qualcomm white paper based on testing by Signals Research Group.

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