5G Fixed Wireless Access | What Is It?
Fixed Wireless Access, or FWA, is an established means of providing internet access to homes using wireless mobile network technology rather than fixed lines.
While FWA can often prove more convenient to set up, its key weakness compared to fixed line broadband is performance. Current mobile network technology simply isn’t able to provide download speeds or latency levels that can compete with a modern fibre broadband connection.
However, the next stage of FWA will utilise 5G network technology, such as beam-forming and a high-frequency mmWave (millimeter wave) spectrum, to provide a considerable performance boost to wireless broadband services.
Why is 5G FWA such a big deal?
5G FWA retains the key benefit of current FWA offerings in that it enables the establishment of a quick and cheap broadband service, even in areas that don’t have ready access to fixed line home broadband. 5G FWA doesn’t require any engineering works at the customer end - just the provision of so-called Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs), which can be readily self-installed by the subscriber.
The chief advantage here, however, is performance. 5G Fixed Wireless Access will be able to deliver a level of service that’s similar to a fibre-based broadband network, and should even be able to provide data speeds that are well ahead of current broadband standards.
Initial 5G trials have reported download speeds of 10 to 25Gbps, while the current average UK home broadband speed is around 30Mbps. While so-called ‘gigabit-speed’ home broadband services are incoming, 5G FWA could prove to be a match in many instances.
This means that 5G FWA needn’t just be a replacement service in areas where fixed broadband is unavailable. It could also be offered as a competing service to fixed home broadband in more built-up and highly populated areas. More competition, of course, means lower prices and improved services for the end customer.
Why is 5G FWA so much better than 4G FWA?
5G FWA will be able to utilise much higher frequency bands than current 4G networks can support. This will include so-called millimetre bands like 28GHz, which have much more available spectrum than LTE.
This additional spectrum means that there will be more capacity for data traffic and greater download speeds.
These millimetre bands also have a tighter radio beam, so they can be focused for use by fewer users in the immediate vicinity. This means that performance won’t be adversely affected by other users within the vicinity.
How will 5G FWA benefit 5G mobile?
5G FWA will support future mobile usage, and will operate to the same standards as forthcoming 5G mobile networks. The latter won’t commence rolling out to the public until 2020.
This presents mobile operators with the opportunity to use 5G FWA as a means to prepare their networks for full-scale 5G network deployments.
In other words, 5G FWA can be used as a stepping stone to full 5G mobility. It could potentially contribute to a much smoother and quicker transition from 4G to 5G for mobile users.
Conversely, of course, future 5G FWA services will be able to make use of 5G network technology as it spreads around the country.
Who’s working on it?
Samsung is known to be working on 5G FWA technology in a number of countries, including here in the UK. Towards the end of February, Samsung and British telecoms infrastructure firm Arqiva announced that they would be partnering up to conduct the first UK 5G FWA trial during the latter half of 2017. The test will involve several locations in central London, including Arqiva’s Percy Street offices.