5G FWA set to rival wired broadband: ABI

It looks like T-Mobile and Verizon are onto something based on ABI Research’s latest report on the state of the fixed wireless access (FWA) market.

ABI Research forecasts that 5G FWA subscriptions will reach 72 million by 2027, representing 35% of the total FWA market five years from now.

The firm noted that LTE FWA services are already widely deployed worldwide, but they often can’t provide the speeds required to compete with wired broadband connections. However, 5G FWA can offer data rates rivalling fiber, making it a competitive alternative to wired broadband solutions, the research firm said.

“FWA is one of the few use cases that utilize 5G Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (mMIMO) networks to their full extent, with a typical monthly utilization that could be as high as 1 TB per subscriber. Many MNOs that have launched 5G are expected to offer FWA services, driving 5G FWA market growth,” said Fei Liu, 5G and mobile network infrastructure analyst at ABI, in a statement.

In the U.S., T-Mobile has zeroed in on dissatisfied cable customers, where more than half of its FWA customers are coming from. Combined, Verizon and T-Mobile are looking to serve 11 million to 13 million total FWA customers by 2025.  

ABI pointed out that both developed and emerging markets benefit from 5G FWA. It identified North America, Western Europe and Asia Pacific as leading 5G FWA deployments.

Liu also warned that mobile network operators need to be vigilant on how many FWA subscribers they take on and which type of service they want to offer – like best effort or quality of service (QoS). She suggested techniques such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can be used to evaluate network resources, capacity and spectrum to ensure operators can support steady FWA growth.

Elsewhere, Juniper Research predicts operators’ 5G FWA revenue will reach $24 billion globally by 2027. However, it cautions that operators must provide a compelling user proposition for FWA solutions through the bundling of services such as video streaming, gaming and smart home security in order to gain a competitive advantage over incumbent high‑speed connectivity technologies like fiber.


SpaceX accuses Dish, RS Access of pivot in 12 GHz tussle

A SpaceX filing with the FCC on Tuesday prompted the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition to say “hold on a minute” and reiterate its mission to make spectrum in the lower 12 GHz available for terrestrial 5G services.

Citing reports by Fierce and New Street Research, SpaceX said in a March 21 filing that Dish and RS Access, the latter which it described as “Michael Dell’s Personal Family Trust,” have “abandoned their quest to have the commission hand them new rights for high-powered terrestrial mobile services in the 12.2-12.7 GHz (12 GHz) band.”

But V. Noah Campbell, co-founder and CEO of RS Access, said that’s not so.

“The claims made by SpaceX in its most recent filing are unequivocally false. The proceeding remains open and the commission has not issued any definitive guidance,” Campbell said in a statement provided to Fierce. “RS Access is confident that the 12 GHz band can supercharge 5G deployment nationwide, and we will continue to work alongside a broad coalition of advocates to support unleashing its full potential.”

Jeff Blum, EVP of External and Legislative Affairs at Dish, reiterated Dish’s interest in mobile and fixed services. “Dish believes there are significant opportunities to open up the 12 GHz band for terrestrial use – both for mobile 5G wireless and fixed wireless access – as it will help close the digital divide and increase competition. Simply stated, the status quo of the 12 GHz band is not in the public interest,” he told Fierce. 

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition provided the following statement. “SpaceX continues attempting to distort the record on 12 GHz. The Coalition’s overall vision for the 12 GHz band – sharing it between satellite and terrestrial services – remains the same. We look forward to continuing our work with the FCC.”

Fixed vs. mobile

SpaceX stated that Dish and RS Access “are switching positions yet again, now asking for free rights for high-powered fixed services in the 12 GHz band,” and cited a March 13 New Street Research (NSR) report that provided analyst commentary on the current state of the 12 GHz proceeding in front of the FCC. That report was from an investor perspective and evaluated the implications for Dish, concluding that it didn’t appear in the near term that Dish would be able to use the spectrum for its own mobile services.

“While it may be able to eventually to use the spectrum for fixed terrestrial uses, it is far from certain how valuable that will be, given uncertainty about the power levels,” wrote NSR analyst Blair Levin. The report emphasized that NSR had not talked to anyone at the FCC about the topic but was basing the analysis on reading the record and having discussions with advocates on all sides.

SpaceX asserts in its latest filing that the FCC rejected high-powered fixed terrestrial services in the band when it authorized MVDDS – and only MVDDS – for additional fixed service operations.

SpaceX also cited the filings of “nearly one hundred thousand people” who submitted comments to the commission in the proceeding. The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition previously attributed that barrage of comments to a misinformation campaign staged by Starlink.

Interestingly, during Dish’s Q1 earnings conference call last May, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen talked about using the 12 GHz band for fixed wireless.

“We’re watching closely what T-Mobile and Verizon are doing,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “I think it’s very creative in terms of what they’re doing. I think there’s other – maybe other ways to do it depending on where you are and the densities that you have. Obviously, one of the things that is now with the FCC and the rulemaking is 12 gigahertz which we think is an ideal frequency for that that could be – that you could get millions of customers in fixed wireless particularly in rural America. So we’re hopeful the FCC will make some rulings on that in near order.”


Should we develop a 6G NR waveform? — Madden

The mobile industry spends a huge level of effort on each “G.” Fifty companies contributing in non-stop standardization activities for 10 years. This investment has resulted in a huge payoff through the years, building up a market with over a trillion dollars of revenue every year.

With a nod to Seizo Onoe from NTT DoCoMo, I like the joke that only “even number  generations” can succeed in mobile. 2G was a winner, but 3G didn’t come through with much value. Then, 4G enabled great applications with serious revenue. So far, 5G has been a complete flop from a revenue point of view.

Sure, the wide spectrum blocks are useful, and massive MIMO is awesome. But 5G has not paid for the $100 billion or more in R&D investment from 2011 through 2020. All those engineers sitting in boring 3GPP meetings for countless hours! There’s zero revenue tied to URLLC or any new 5G apps so far.

So, maybe “6G” will be the consolidation that is needed for URLLC and enterprise applications to start creating hundreds of billions in revenue. I think so. In fact, I would generalize to say that every second generation of mobile technology succeeds because people need a generation — 20 years — to change their behavior. The 50-year-olds in the industry did a great job in creating wireless phones. Now it’s time for the 30-year-olds to step up and blow us away with something really different.

Today, my question is whether it’s a good idea to send hundreds of engineers to spend thousands of hours in boring 3GPP RAN meetings over the next 10 years. Should we revisit the OFDMA frame structure? Or should we simply tweak it for the new spectrum and focus our attention on new use cases instead?

There are multiple answers to this question:

  • People that focus on 140 GHz as the “6G band” will say that a new frame structure and RF waveform are necessary. James Clerk Maxwell and Enrico Marconi would agree. Semiconductor physics in this band makes OFDMA problematic, and we will need to change to a constant-power approach. But wait a minute. There’s no market at 140 GHz and I don’t hear any credible market expert that would advocate investing billions in standardizing something that can’t penetrate a wet paper bag.
  • If the “6G” band will be somewhere between 6 GHz and 15 GHz — the so-called “golden band”— then OFDMA will work out pretty well. The semiconductors will support OFDMA transmissions, and we can extend Massive MIMO for long range and very high capacity. I’m expecting 128T solutions to come to market at 7 GHz and 256T solutions at 10-13 GHz over the next five years. This is a solid way to keep building capacity for our existing applications — a known market with a proven ROI.
  • Keep in mind that 6G will be refarmed into our existing bands. We’ve done this in many previous generations, and this will be no different. There’s a lot of value in refarming 6G using Dynamic Spectrum Sharing via software upgrade. That means that we should keep the OFDMA structure and the waveform very similar to the 5G arrangement. Backward compatibility means that we don’t have to yank radios out of the field.
  • Open RAN is a great idea, and I support the concept of an open RIC with applications for specific use cases. But this approach requires stability in some fundamental things. Not everything can be changing constantly. If developers are going to innovate with AI and xApps, then I submit that the waveform should remain fairly stable. The 5G NR waveform already has the flexibility that is needed.
  • I have spoken with dozens of enterprises about their plans for private 5G networks. Nobody is looking for anything beyond 5G URLLC, and in fact most applications are well served by private LTE. In our research, there is no driving force for further reductions in latency or higher speeds. Instead, the focus is clearly on software maturity in the use case and integration with their IT systems.

In the end, I would give the following advice to all of the leading network vendors and operators considering 6G standardization: Scale it back. We can probably squeeze another 1-2% more spectral efficiency out of small tweaks to OFDMA, so let’s do that.

Let’s not allow the 3GPP committees to run on “autopilot” and create completely new numerology or complex multiple-access schemes to squeeze 5% more spectral efficiency from a “6G NR” type of change. Heck, we will get 40% more capacity from the use of AI to optimize within the complexities of 5G NR and beamforming anyway, so let’s focus our attention there and leave the radio frame structure alone.  

At the same time, let’s focus the attention of our brilliant engineers on the private wireless market. Our recent research in industrial markets and “carpeted enterprises” illustrate a private-cellular equipment market of $2.5 billion this year, and at least 10 years of growth at 20% or more. Do the math. The private 6G market could be bigger than our existing RAN market in 10 years.


Intelligence Brief: Improving indoor 5G experience offers opportunities

For many 5G uses cases, the relevance of indoor coverage represents an important challenge to address.

The technology has already surpassed 1 billion users and is expected to increase to 5 billion connections by 2030. Depending on the location and residence type, indoor traffic can account for up to 80 per cent of mobile traffic. Achieving consistent indoor and outdoor experiences that meet speed performance requirements is, therefore crucial for consumers and businesses, and enabling high-quality indoor 5G connectivity through better experience will result in a virtuous cycle that enables innovation.

In this regard, the transition to Digital Indoor Systems (DIS) is key as it will be the driver for 5G service growth and industry upgrades.

Some of the most relevant indoor 5G cases are massive IoT (mIoT), enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA), which will all play an important role in digital transformation across a range of economic sectors including manufacturing, transport and smart cities.

From a consumer perspective, demand will increase as a result of VR and AR applications, real-time broadcasting, wireless streaming cameras with 4K and even 8K resolution, cloud and gaming. From the business perspective, stadiums, airports, government buildings, shopping centres, hospitals and venues will require high-speed, low-latency 5G networks to implement automatic and remote IoT applications. Many of these will contribute to the growth of indoor data consumption, which is already much higher for 5G than for 4G.

Technological solutions are therefore needed to meet the integration and performance requirements for indoor spaces. The transition from traditional Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) to DIS technologies, as a new generation of network architecture, will be particularly important. This trend, which began with 4G, has gained greater recognition as a way of enhancing the capacity, coverage and experience of 5G networks.

While some indoor applications require high capacity, others depend more heavily on reliable coverage. Here, low-band spectrum will play an important role, given its superior in-building penetration to provide deep indoor coverage.

A recent study published by the GSMA on the socioeconomic benefits of low bands shows nations using these for 5G (specifically the 600MHz and 700MHz bands) have achieved significantly-higher levels of coverage, as well as better 5G availability and indoor quality of service. The study also showed low-band 5G is expected to drive $130 billion in economic value worldwide in 2030.

These topics were among several discussed at the 5G Accelerates Indoor Digitalisation event hosted by IDATE during MWC23.

Industry players, policymakers, operators, vendors and analysts shared a range of views regarding the opportunities and challenges surrounding indoor 5G connectivity.

  • Opening the event, BEREC chair Kostas Masselos highlighted the ecosystem’s consensus of 5G being an enabler of economic growth and innovation. He emphasised all European households can benefit from this wave of innovation, with indoor digital networks bringing high-quality experiences which will form a virtuous circle to promote investment in 5G infrastructure and contribute to a new ecosystem for verticals.
  • Next up, Jeremy Blanchemain, head of IT and Informatisation Construction with HubOne (a digital technologies operator for business and public sector organisations), demonstrated the importance of 5G outdoor and indoor convergence in support of coverage. This included a case study of HubOne, where the construction of mobile networks in French airports has driven increasing demand for high-speed indoor networks.
  • Afterwards, Jean Luc Lemmens from IDATE presented on 5G Indoor: Trends and Challenges, a white paper proposing a series of measures to improve indoor 5G connectivity in Europe. The region is currently lagging in 5G deployment compared with nations including China and South Korea, prompting calls for regulators to accelerate approval processes for the deployment of indoor technologies, and remove excessive restrictions imposed by public places administrators. The speaker also highlighted some levers to accelerate 5G deployment, including subsidies for indoor network deployment allocated to mobile operators directly or to vertical industries; indoor experience ranking demonstration, to enable network deployment competition between operators; and regulatory measures to relieve operator burdens such as reducing the entry/slotting fee and also to speed up indoor site acquisition approval.
  • From the operators’ perspective, Sheldon Yau, head of Wireless and Core Network Engineering at HKT, highlighted how it advanced indoor 5G forward as a key strategy to lead 5G experience and benefit consumers, business users and high-value households.
  • Finally, Eric Bao, president of Digital Indoor System Product Line, Wireless Network, set out Huawei’s commitment to invest more towards innovating indoor digitalisation to deliver on premium performance, diverse service capabilities and simplified, green network solutions.

Across the speakers, it was clear there are opportunities to drive mass-market deployment of 5G indoors and that this should be an industry priority. Therefore, governments and the digital ecosystem should prioritise the expansion of 5G network indoor solutions, to enhance the user experience and drive wider social, economic and environmental benefits from the deployment and use of 5G services.

In addition to the points made by IDATE, it will be essential to take steps to develop and integrate indoor systems such DIS, which offer better bandwidth and coverage in these spaces. This will require global equipment vendors to continue developing solutions in DIS to help network operators efficiently manage and optimise their networks.

Ultimately, progress in this area will result in a better 5G experience for businesses and households.


GSMA makes the case for more mobile spectrum

Telecoms industry body the GSMA has released a couple of reports waxing on future spectrum allocation and its economic implications.

In the first report titled ‘For the Benefit of Billions’ the GSMA claims to have laid out the mobile industry’s ‘vision of how to maximise the benefits of mobile spectrum for billions of people worldwide’, ahead of the ITU World Radio Communication Conference in November, decisions made at which guide national allocations of spectrum, we’re told.

The report is aimed at governments and regulators and how they can use the event to ‘develop thriving and competitive communications markets’ and it also seems to have a heavy emphasis on making sure everyone can have access to mobile services. More specifically, the report concludes that:

  • Increasing capacity for mobile at WRC-23 will lead to better services delivered from less costly, more sustainable networks.
  • Additional low-band spectrum can deliver broad and affordable connectivity, building bridges towards digital inclusion.
  • Mid-band expansion can drive city-wide 5G, transforming industries and delivering mobile services that are an asset to their countries, ensuring their industrial agility in the global marketplace.

The GSMA has simultaneously put out a report titled ‘Socio-Economic Benefits of 5G: The importance of low-band spectrum’, which looks at how low-band spectrum is a ‘driver of digital equality.’ You can read the full report should you feel so inclined, but it’s conclusions are listed as:

  • Low-band 5G is expected to drive around $130 billion in economic value in 2030.
  • Half of the impact will come from massive IoT (mIoT). Many existing and future IoT use cases require wide area coverage, in addition to population coverage, which low-band spectrum is best suited to provide.
  • MIoT applications are set to play an important role in digital transformation across a range of economic sectors, including manufacturing, transport, smart cities and agriculture.
  • The rest of the economic impact will be driven by enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA), as low bands will play a critical role in delivering high-speed broadband connectivity in areas underserved by fixed networks.
  • Without sufficient low-band spectrum, the digital divide is likely to widen, and those living in rural areas will be excluded from the latest digital technologies.

“WRC-23 is a critical inflection point for every government, every business and every person worldwide that use mobile communications,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “More than five billion people rely on mobile every day, and the evidence is clear: increasing mobile capacity will deliver the maximum socio-economic benefit for billions worldwide, and provide the biggest boost to national economies.

“Future growth, future jobs and future innovation all depend on policymakers making choices at WRC-23 that give 5G the room to grow and allow it to play a transformational role across all sectors of our societies and economies.”

In summery then, the GSMA seems to be making the point that freeing up more spectrum will have the duel benefits of letting 5G stretch its legs and perhaps deliver on the initial promises it was sold on, and that there are socio-economic consequences for those not already well connected if this isn’t done.