Verizon’s “5G” FWA Progresses in Sacramento, CA:
Sacramento Chief Innovation Officer Louis Stewart said in an interview with Government Technology that the California state capital became one of the first four cities nationally to debut Verizon’s (proprietary) “5G” fixed wireless access (FWA) network, along with Los Angeles, Houston and Indianapolis on October 1st. The purpose of this and other FWA broadband networks is to deliver residential triple play services.
More “5G” offerings should arrive in Sacramento during 2019:
• Sacramento is on schedule to be one of the nation’s first 11 cities that will have the infrastructure needed to underpin “5G” and a connected future. That includes: in-ground fiber to link light poles and traffic signals and materials to support free Wi-Fi via kiosks in 27 parks. Much of this should arrive in early 2019, the innovation officer said, calling the digital kiosks “not on hold indefinitely,” implying “the conversation is still happening.”
• Emilie Cameron, public affairs and communications director for Downtown Sacramento Partnership (DSP), the nonprofit that manages the assessment for the property-based improvement district, said the city reached out to the group in late 2017 with “high-level” information about the Verizon partnership. But she described the conversation as “conceptual.” She described the response to the kiosks as generally positive but agreed district members are interested to learn where the devices will be located, what they’ll look like and what content and services will be offered. “You don’t want anything to be in conflict with the streetscape,” Cameron said.
• Stewart said a great deal of coordination must happen to enable deployment of infrastructure and services in 2019, which he described as “a fairly heavy lift.” Sacramento, the innovation executive said, wants to ensure the project is “done right” for the community whether in the parks or in the downtown corridor, to enable “the right user experience.” Much content development for the kiosks’ digital displays remains to be completed, he said, but officials are currently in the “ideation phase.”
“If the future that everybody’s looking at is how do you build, ultimately, a connected city, kiosks fit into that, whether it be providing additional connectivity to connect the cars and autonomous cars as they essentially geolocate, driving down the streets. They could provide other smart city solutions, be they charging stations or power down the road, in some kind of way,” Stewart said.
Huawei’s 5G Home Broadband System:
Huawei and U.K. carrier Three showcased a 5G home broadband demonstration using Three’s 100 megahertz of C-Band spectrum last week at the Huawei’s Global Mobile Broadband Forum in London, which IEEE Techblog has been reporting on this week and last.
The demonstration leveraged Huawei’s latest 5G-based home broadband routers to allow forum attendees to experience ultra-high-speed 5G broadband services such as cloud gaming and 4K video streaming, Huawei said. The world’s #1 network equipment vendor highlighted that the 5G broadband service will deliver a maximum download speed of 2 Gbps, with an average of 1 Gbps for a single user.
Huawei and Three U.K. carried out a pre-commercial network test of this technology earlier this year. The two companies plan to carry out further 5G service tests in the U.K. in the coming months, which are expected to be released to the public in densely-populated urban areas and train stations, paving the way for the full commercial use of 5G networks in 2019.
“The 5G trials we carried out today demonstrate the opportunity this technology brings to the home broadband market. Huawei will continue to work with Three UK to bring customers more market-leading commercial applications of 5G,” said Yang Chaobin, President of Huawei 5G Product Line.
“Huawei is the only true 5G supplier right now,” said Neil McRae, chief architect at British Telecom. “Others need to catch up. I’ve been to Shenzhen recently and there’s nowhere else in the world where you can see” the kind of 5G technology developments that Huawei has achieved. Other suppliers need to learn from Huawei. Others are held back by old telco issues,” McRae added.
In the UK, Three, EE and BT have all said they’re launching a 5G network in some form in 2019 (that’s 1 year before IMT 2020 standard will be completed and with no standards for virtual RAN, Cloud RAN, network slicing, scheduling, OA&M, etc). EE has announced which cities will be first to get its 5G service.
Some pundits say that 5G FWA networks have the potential to complement fiber to the home (FTTx) deployments by providing an alternative “last-mile” solution consumer and business services. In both urban and suburban regions, the ability to deploy 5G FWA will help reduce costs for operators and increase accessibility of high speed broadband for residential FWA customers. 5G FWA networking equipment also requires a much smaller footprint than traditional mobile networks, reducing requirements for government approvals of new tower locations.
Market research firm Ovum has this assessment of Huawei’s “5G” FWA strategy:
Huawei has gradually built its WTTx fixed wireless access (FWA) business into a key component of its wireless broadband portfolio. At the Huawei Global Analyst Summit earlier this month, the vendor reported significant successes for WTTx and high expectations for its future development. Although still small in scale relative to mobile broadband services, the FWA market is experiencing rapid growth, even outpacing FTTx and copper for new subscription additions in many world markets, according to Huawei’s figures. WTTx is central to Huawei’s wireless broadband strategy.
Even though other large network equipment vendors including Nokia and Ericsson provide their own fixed wireless broadband solutions, Huawei is arguably more aggressive in its public backing of FWA. Huawei’s work with WiMAX has given it more experience with fixed wireless and it has existing FWA operator relationships it can leverage. Huawei’s FWA strategy also differs from that of competitors such as Nokia in that it places WTTx as part of its mobile products line rather than part of its fixed broadband offering.
Huawei already claims a substantial installed base for its WTTx fixed wireless offering, with 200 WTTx commercial networks in service and 50 million households connected as of end-2017. The vendor says 82 operators launched WTTx for home broadband in 2017 alone, and it expects to see a surge in demand over the next two years.
The future growth of FWA will depend on a number of factors, including the ability to deliver efficient and sustainable home broadband services to underserved and unconnected communities more economically than fiber alternatives. Huawei has identified the following four major deployment models where it believes WTTx can provide a fiber-like experience to complement fixed broadband:
As a home fixed broadband service for mobile operators to deliver triple-play services
As a complement to wireline broadband services for converged operators
As a DSL upgrade for wholesale broadband providers
As a 5G-oriented fixed wireless broadband service.
Along with a maturing WTTx ecosystem, a number of factors support the expansion of fixed wireless services. On the network side, spare cell capacity arising from the uneven traffic distribution associated with smartphones can be used more efficiently by operators introducing FWA services. On the equipment side, advances in self-install CPE, along with performance and efficiency gains from the incorporation of multiple receiver and antenna technologies and the use of massive MIMO and 256QAM at the eNodeB, is helping to deliver a high-capacity equivalent to evolved LTE. This will support the evolution toward 5G FWA.
Even so, the business case for FWA is likely to be challenging, particularly in emerging markets where population densities and ARPU are low. Huawei believes governments and regulators can promote the benefits of universal network coverage by providing more practical encouragement and financial stimulus to local mobile operators. It offers a business operation and management platform as part of its WTTx pre-sales service suite, which helps operators evaluate the potential opportunity for a fixed wireless solution based on aspects such as network capacity trends and coverage gaps in existing FTTx and wireline networks.
Ultimately, the success of fixed wireless broadband will depend on the scope it provides for operators to monetize services.