LIVE FROM GLOBAL MBB FORUM, DUBAI: Karim Benkirane, CCO at UAE-based operator du (pictured), backed 5.5G networks to help operators overcome challenges that exist in deployment of fixed wireless access (FWA), with global connections tipped to hit 300 million by 2028.

In the opening keynote, Benkirane noted around a third of a person’s time is spent in the home, meaning demand for improved FWA was naturally increasing. He said the technology had the potential to provide better experiences than fibre in the future, but there are three key challenges that need to be met.

Firstly, he believes the outdoor mobile 5G experience is better than indoor, which is an existing barrier for operators and their partners.

On the customer side, Benkirane claims they don’t know the difference between fibre and FWA because for them “it’s connectivity, it’s Wi-Fi”. For FWA to truly take-off, it needs to provide a differentiator in terms of speed, latency and capacity.

Last but not least, the du executive pointed to the challenge in segregating FWA and mobile traffic on the network, to ensure it is delivering the best experience possible.

Citing Ericsson research, Benkirane believes current FWA connections of around 125 million can grow to 300 million in five years, with deployment of 5.5G the answer to challenges hindering the technology.

In a partnership showcased at the event, du has teamed with Huawei to deploy the operator’s 5.5G offering at what it claimed was the first 5G-Advanced villa in the world, covering the entire space with advanced FWA technology.

Also appearing on stage, Saif Bin Ghelaita, executive director technology development affairs at UAE regulator TDRA, provided further backing to 5.5G.

He said the country was at the forefront of both 5G and 5.5G, and there was a shared commitment from the regulator and operators to develop the latter. He said the upcoming World Radiocommunications Conference, to be held in the UAE in November, could help towards modernising regulation and securing key spectrum for 5.5G.