The happy marriage of fixed and wireless access is upon us
Wireless is taking over the world it seems. Every new phone release, every new generation of mobile technology creates headlines. Hyperbole aside, there’s no denying the explosive growth in mobile speeds and usage as consumers come to rely on smartphones as a vital link to work, school, friends, family and the world around them.
For years, however, there’s been one area where wireless has failed to live up to the hype or expectation: as an alternative to fixed broadband for connecting homes and businesses.
That finally seems to be changing. On the surface, it looks like the worlds of fixed and wireless broadband are colliding but in reality we’re seeing two unique networks evolve in ways that are mutually beneficial. A botanist may call this symbiotic but we call it fixed mobile convergence (FMC).
FMC means different things to different people. With 4G deployments and the imminent arrival of 5G, there’s a need to connect many more small cells. Since fixed networks already exist in the urban areas where 5G will take off, fixed networks are ideally positioned to backhaul 5G traffic, doing so at 50% of the cost of building a dedicated mobile transport network.
A second area of fixed-mobile convergence is fixed-wireless access (FWA) where wireless technology is used as an alternative to copper, cable or fiber broadband. 4G can already deliver competitive speeds to homes, though in some cases, networks must be re-dimensioned to meet the peak and sustained rates that users demand. With 5G we’ll be able to deliver speeds of 1Gb/s to subscribers.
Operators can also consider using 60 Ghz 802.11ad (WiGig) to drive gigabit speeds. Since it uses the unlicensed 60 GHz frequency band, WiGig is very attractive to fixed operators that don’t own 4G or 5G spectrum. The drawback is that it cannot travel vast distances, and this is where we come full circle and again discuss symbiotic relationships.
Fixed and wireless technologies can now come together, one providing efficient transport in the form of PON networks and the other providing a cost-effective alternative to the copper or fiber local loop. FMC is one of the main characteristics of intelligent access, a new era for broadband where operators’ networks are becoming faster, better and smarter.
But it’s not about competing technologies; it’s about adding tools to every operator’s toolkit to ensure they can deliver ultra-broadband services to all their subscribers in time to beat the competition and meet national broadband plans at a cost that makes their business cases work.
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