Author: Pantelis Trakas (Senior Product Manager, Wireless Network Systems, Intracom Telecom)
Fixed wireless access (FWA) is a solution that has been around for more than a decade as an alternative to xDSL, fiber and other wired broadband access technologies. Used to provide access to the underserved, usually, in sub-urban or rural areas, it is also utilized as a complementary solution by WISPs or CLECs to provide competitive services. FWA is more applicable to the residential or small-business markets that constantly use bandwidth-hungry applications.
Challenges of FWA Networks
- Technology selection
Fixed line networking -with fiber, cable access or even xDSL/vectoring technologies- provides high capacity and reliability but at a significant CapEx. Moreover, typical copper-based xDSL technologies cannot offer high capacities. Modern wireless technologies are already field-proven and operators invest in related solutions to deliver residential broadband access services as efficiently as possible.
- Fast rollout
Deployment time is also important in the fiercely-competitive telecom market. As a result, operators have to consider wireless technologies for such a solution, as they have a significant advantage over fixed line networking in terms of the time it takes to reach the end customer, and also generate CapEx savings. Ease of installation and commissioning is also critical for the OpEx of large deployments.
- Scalability of CPE
The higher the number of Customer Premises Equipment that can be served in a sectorized area, the faster the ROI. Increase in demand should not obligate additional spending on equipment infrastructure at the hub sites. High sector capacity is also an important factor to consider, combined with the spectrum efficiency of the deployed system.
- Cost of infrastructure
The FWA market and especially the residential access applications are price sensitive as far as the CPE is concerned. Wireless ISPs that plan to deploy fixed wireless broadband networks and offer attractive monthly packages need to select equipment vendors that will provide low CapEx solutions and generate profitable investments.
High-capacity FWA does not have to wait for 5G
The current FWA sub-6GHz technologies offer maximum throughputs in the order of tens of Mbps per user. Everyone is waiting for the holy grail of 5G access and its fiber-like performance. The question is why does it take so long to mature? In the past, mobile standards were designed to improve on previous ones in one or two ways, such as voice or mobile broadband. 5G, however, has a much broader scope. From its conception, the creators of 5G wanted the network to handle several different functions, including enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine type communications, also called IoT, and critical, ultrareliable and low-latency communications.
The demand for broadband services both in the enterprise and the premium residential user segments is constantly growing. Despite good fiber availability in large cities, the deployment of microwave access links (28/39 GHz) can be quicker and cheaper in many cases. Analysts are projecting double-digit growth rates in the FWA market in the forthcoming years. This is seen by many WISPs and CLECs as an opportunity to deploy high-capacity FWA services today and not wait for 5G to happen.
Advantages of Area-Licensed Spectrum with FWA
Many operators already possess, or consider acquiring area-licensed spectrum and would like to take advantage both of their investment and the extra assurance offered by the licensed spectrum with respect to interference, in order to deploy FWA in these frequencies.
Owning area-licensed spectrum (as opposed to per-link licensed spectrum) enables the use of PtMP systems and offers the advantage of not requiring a separate licensing procedure for the planning and installation of each link, which is a consideration if one has to deploy, and potentially re-deploy, multiple links within a short period of time.
Licensed spectrum for the bandwidth-rich, area-licensed 10.5/26/28 GHz bands, is ideal for dense FWA deployment in residential applications. The benefit of using licensed spectrum is the assurance of avoiding interference from competing operator systems using the same bands.
About the company
Intracom Telecom is a global telecommunication systems and solutions vendor operating for over 40 years in the market. The company has become the benchmark in fixed wireless access and it successfully innovates in the 5G/4G wireless front haul, backhaul, and small-cell SON backhaul international arena.