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Oct 17 2018

Make the most of your radio network investment with fixed-wireless access

While the world is waiting with bated breath for 5G mobile services, we’ve also been quietly getting on with bringing 5G into the home for fixed services. Why? Because the opportunity for mobile operators, for converged operators – even for fixed operators – and their customers, is huge.

Perhaps the first mass-market opportunity for fixed-wireless access (FWA) lies with mobile operators. They have spent a fortune deploying their 3G and 4G radio access networks (RAN). Now the networks are in place, operators – and their shareholders – want to leverage that investment for all its worth, opening their networks for as much business as possible.

FWA is a critical application for that. With minimal additional investment in the network, an operator can use their RAN to provide residential broadband services. And let’s be clear: 4G-TTH and imminent 5G-TTH technologies can absolutely compete on bandwidth with most fixed broadband services, even with gigabit fiber.

What might be difficult for mobile operators is finding the right FWA path as it can have a significant impact on the network. Some may simply use spare capacity, perhaps providing a mobile + fixed broadband bundle to customers. In this case, ease of installation is paramount. For operators going head-to-head with incumbent fixed broadband providers, maximizing speed while efficiently using precious radio assets will be most important. These strategies have different challenges so, of course, need different approaches.

We know, of course, that radio waves don’t like passing through walls. An outdoor high gain antenna solves this and can improve spectral efficiency by 4-5x resulting in a much lower total cost of ownership (TCO) when you consider both RAN and CPE costs. Coverage and reliability improve as well. In our rural trials we’ve seen zero signal on an in-home handset while pulling in speeds of over 50 Mb/s with an outdoor, high gain antenna.

To compete with fixed broadband, operators need a range of solutions for different scenarios. As an extreme example, my 4G Wi-Fi dongle was cheap to install but it has a zero dBi antenna, compromising speed for convenience. While this may be a nice way for my mobile provider to increase stickiness and ARPU, it will not compete with fixed-grade services.

Nokia FastMile has a broad range of outdoor high-gain receivers in different sizes and gains to match different service needs. We offer Automated Beam Alignment (ABA) antennas to fine tune the connection to the mobile network as well as compact, mechanical tilt versions for cases where ABA isn’t needed. We will also have easy-install indoor gateways with superior performance, high-gain antennas and 4x4 multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO). And with our new 3.5 GHz 5G indoor gateway, gigabit FWA services are a reality, even with some attenuation when beaming through walls.

Come and have a look at all your FWA options on our booth at BBWF where, with our SDN-enabled copper, fiber and wireless solutions we’re showing what it really means for networks to be open for business.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #fixedwireless, #BBWF

About Keith Russell

As head of global FTTx marketing activities for Nokia’s Fixed Networks group, Keith is appreciated for his deep understanding of operator networks and fixed technologies. He’s a 20 year veteran of the Telco industry with recent publications in vectoring technology and you can watch for him on the industry speaker circuit.