The launch of fixed wireless access (FWA) technology will not only give operators access to a new revenue stream in broadband, but might also open up new opportunities in the cloud services sector, an industry executive told Mobile World Live.
Brian Deutsch, CEO of network equipment company Pivotal Commware, said FWA represents “low-hanging fruit” in a 5G world, presenting a way for operators to quickly monetise network upgrades while also laying the groundwork for mobile 5G deployments.
But by allowing operators to rapidly expand their fixed broadband footprint, he pointed out it will also strengthen their ability to offer cloud-based services which stretch across all the domains of a user’s life.
He explained applications including virtual reality, which are enabled by mobile edge computing, will be tied to a broadband supplier’s cloud provider. This means the user’s experience could be interrupted when they leave home if their domestic broadband provider is different from their mobile provider. By consolidating the source of home and mobile broadband service, operators can ensure a consistent experience for new cloud-based services, Deutsch explained.
“Once your [home and mobile] broadband comes from one source, then cloud services make much more sense because you have persistence of your session…When you’re running apps in basically real time on mobile edge computing, for those types of things you need persistence.”
To make it all work, Deutsch said operators first have to nail the economics of FWA deployments. He detailed three main challenges they are up against: signal performance; equipment costs; and installation costs.
Verizon already revealed FWA tests which yielded better-than-expected performance results.
But Deutsch said operators will have to figure out how to apply the technology to serve 60 or more homes from a single base station to make the deployments cheaper than running fibre. Additionally, they’ll also need to look for ways to eliminate as many site visits by technicians as possible to keep installation costs to a minimum.
Pivotal Commware is talking with all four US operators on a product (pictured) that Deutsch claimed solves all these problems. It uses holographic beamforming on mmWave spectrum to enable gigabit speeds at greater distances, and comes in a package users can self-install on a window in their home.
The CEO added cable operators are also intrigued by the development as they assess both the threat from wireless competitors and the opportunity it presents for them to expand their own broadband footprints.
One wild card which remains is how consumers will respond to the new technology, particularly if it requires them to install a large piece of equipment in a visible spot on their homes.
Deutsch said Pivotal Commware is yet to assess consumer response to the product, but acknowledged “it’s an issue” the company is considering carefully.
“That’s really to me what you have to get right. If it’s an 800 megabits signal instead of a gigabit coming through, most people will live with that. But if it somehow screws up the profile of my house, the exterior, the facade, no. You’ve got to get it right, colour wise and all that.”