While fixed wireless access (FWA) has largely been viewed as a means for providing connectivity to rural areas across the US, GSMA Intelligence argued it could also be more cost effective in urban areas under certain conditions.

In a report, the research company took a look at how FWA 5G FWA could deliver broadband services with download speeds of at least 100Mb/s compared with alternative fixed-line technologies and across various deployment scenarios.

The report was released this month and is the third in a series of GSMA Intelligence FWA research sponsored by Qualcomm Technologies.

GSMA Intelligence analysed total cost of ownership (TCO) to show how FWA is a cost-effective alternative to fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) in some instances.

The report focused on FWA and FTTH deployments across the US, Latin America and Europe over a ten-year timeframe in urban and suburban areas, and rural towns.

GSMA Intelligence focused on mobile operators which have an existing 5G network for mobile services and hold 100MHz of mid-band spectrum in the 3.5GHz band and 400MHz of mmWave spectrum in the 26GHz to 28GHz bands.

Across all the markets covered, GSMA Intelligence found a FWA 5G deployment strategy which included using operators’ existing base stations to the maximum possible extent, mid-band spectrum for coverage and capacity, and mmWave spectrum as an additional capacity layer could be a cost-effective alternative to FTTH in many cases, even when an operator could deploy fibre using existing infrastructure.

In suburban areas, 5G mid-band plus mmWave FWA could deliver cost savings of up to 70 per cent versus FTTH where new ducts or poles need to be deployed by the operator.

Where the ducts and poles need to be shared or rented, cost savings may reach 30 per cent in Latin America and 20 per cent in Europe.

Urban connectivity
GSMA Intelligence also found 5G mid-band plus mmWave would be cost-effective in urban areas lacking existing fibre infrastructure which could be shared or rented. In those cases, expected cost savings could reach 45 per cent depending on the region.

It could also cost 10 per cent to 15 per cent less than FTTH in urban areas with existing underground fibre infrastructure which could be shared or rented.

Operators with 200MHz of mid-band spectrum and 800MHz of mmWave spectrum which are planning to deploy 5G mid-band plus mmWave FWA in urban and suburban areas in Europe and in the US could expect to see an improvement in cost savings of 10 percentage points to 15 percentage points when traffic demand is very high.

For those with either 200MHz of mid-band and 400MHz of mmWave spectrum, or 100MHz of mid-band and 800MHz of mmWave spectrum, the improvement could range from 5 percentage points to 10 percentage points.

In rural towns, 5G mid-band plus mmWave FWA may deliver cost savings of up to 80 per cent when there is a lack of fibre infrastructure operators could rent or share.

Where the infrastructure can be rented or shared, it could deliver cost savings of up to 10 per cent in Europe, 20 per cent in the US and 30 per cent in Latin America.

Among the large carriers in the US, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile US are using FWA to varying degrees, with the Deutsche Telekom subsidiary the most aggressive.