Nokia today unveiled a purpose-built fixed wireless access (FWA) receiver for the North American market.

The new FastMile 5G receiver uses a high-gain antenna to deliver high speeds over long distances. Nokia is targeting it to serve both suburban and rural underserved communities.

The receiver supports all North American 5G mid and low spectrum bands and 4G bands, as well as CBRS. It also supports up to 4CA NR carrier aggregation, meaning operators can bundle bands for higher throughput. And it supports both non-standalone 4G-5G networks as well as standalone 5G.

In terms of the type of operators Nokia is targeting with this new receiver, Keith Russell, marketing director of FWA Fixed Networks business at Nokia, said the product can be used by any North American operator with access to 4G/5G spectrum, including unlicensed CBRS in the U.S. This includes large mobile operators such as T-Mobile or Verizon. And it also includes cable operators such as Comcast, Charter and Cox, among others that purchased CBRS spectrum. The receiver can also be used by smaller operators, such as WISPS, that plan to build small 5G networks for CBRS. 

The FastMile 5G receiver is mounted outside the home where it can pick up the strongest signals, important in rural areas where signals can be weak at the cell edge.

For their initial FWA offerings, both Verizon and T-Mobile have provided customer premises equipment (CPE) that customers self-install near or on windows in their homes.

But Nokia’s new receiver will probably require a truck-roll. Russell said, “While we do have a smart phone app to ease installation, the 5G receiver will be professionally installed in most cases.”

Chris DePuy, technology analyst and founder at 650 Group, said, “Nokia’s product with outdoor antenna allows them to make connections over longer distances, which is more common in rural and suburban areas. It allows them to serve a market those indoor-class products don’t address.”

He said the directional antenna design with up to 18dBi gain for sparsely populated areas is a “fairly beefy antenna.”

The outside receiver is teamed with an inside Wi-Fi router, such as Nokia’s Beacon G6.2, which has managed mesh Wi-Fi capability to deliver strong signals throughout the home. This gateway can be self-installed by the customer.

The new Nokia 5G high gain receiver is available immediately in the North American market.

DePuy said that of the total FWA market that Nokia is targeting, the market for rural links is “well over 10 million.”

“I think Nokia is expanding their market,” he added. “Historically that indoor-class product would serve that whole market. Now that they’ve gone outdoor, that expands the addressable market.”

FWA to close the digital divide

This week was exciting for the telecom community as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the amount of funding each U.S. state and territory will receive from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment (BEAD) program.

And although NTIA has expressed a preference for fiber to reach unserved locations, it also has given states latitude to choose other technologies, such as FWA, where the cost of fiber would be too expensive.

The trade group WISPA has been actively lobbying for the government to allow wireless technologies to be used in BEAD projects.

In response to this week’s announcement of BEAD fund allocations, WISPA wrote, “Because WISPs can quickly and cost-effectively reach isolated, hard-to-serve areas, bringing connectivity across rivers, over mountains, through dense forests and desolate deserts, as well as other geographically challenging areas….we are encouraged to see the program move forward. WISPs will actively engage and participate with the States and NTIA to shepherd the plan’s effective roll-out and complex deployment process.”

In its announcement today about its new 5G FWA receiver Nokia said, “The necessity for high-speed broadband has never been clearer, and governments are responding with a wide range of programs to ensure access for their citizens. Full coverage will require a combination of fiber and wireless technologies where it is too difficult to lay fiber.”

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