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How Wireless Aims to Trump Fiber

Alan Breznick
5/29/2017
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Despite today's fiber-feeding frenzy, stringing more fiber is not necessarily the solution to all broadband problems for service providers.

In many cases, advanced wireless broadband services may make more sense and be far more cost-effective than running fiber or even cable lines all the way to the customer's home or business. And, thanks to advances in mobile technology, wireless broadband may also offer enough bandwidth and fast enough transmission speeds to support the panoply of voice, data and video services that consumers and businesses increasingly expect and demand.

Proponents like Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. contend that wireless broadband is now ready for primetime after years of being dismissed by critics as too slow, unreliable and/or difficult to set up. They point to a number of reasons for this development, including the technology's lower deployment costs, shorter time-to-market, portability and relative ease of deployment compared with new fiber or cable lines.

Let's start with the potential cost savings of deploying wireless broadband. Terming them "the most obvious benefit," Huawei figures that deployments of wireless broadband services, like its WTTx solution leveraging existing cellular technologies, can come in at least 60% cheaper than fixed broadband installations. That's because wireless networks don't require digging up or trenching the ground for reaching customers, nor wiring rooms or drilling walls for installing the in-home connections. (See What WTTX Can Deliver.)

Second, proponents assert that service providers, especially mobile operators, can bring wireless broadband to market significantly quicker than fixed broadband. They note that launching wireless broadband service typically takes just a few months, as opposed to many months or even years for fixed broadband. That's at least partly because wireless broadband doesn't need upgrades for either RAN or core networks, unlike fixed broadband.

Further, wireless broadband advocates point to the technology's relatively flexible nature. They state that, unlike fixed broadband, the wireless variety can easily be deployed incrementally, one step at a time, without great cost. As a result, they say, it allows operators to test out the market before making further investments.

In addition, champions of wireless broadband cite the ability of mobile operators to leverage 4G, 4.5G and 5G technologies to deliver voice, data and video service to subscribers. They argue that these more advanced technologies allow operators to take advantage of network utilization disparities, enabling them to avoid peak times and congested locations for other broadband usage. For instance, operators can easily offer mobile broadband service to homes at night because their networks tend to be heavily used by businesses during the day, leaving a far lighter load the rest of the time.

Because of its lower capital costs and relative ease of deployment, wireless broadband is often seen as best suited for vast, unwired rural areas and developing countries. But the technology also has decent prospects in dense urban markets, where consumers may already have fixed broadband available but desire faster speeds, cheaper service and/or more flexible pay options.

In fact, Huawei says it's actually seeing more deployments of its WTTx solution in such developed markets as Japan, Europe and North America than in underdeveloped regions like Africa and Latin America. Overall, the vendor now boasts over 100 commercial WTTx agreements with telcos and mobile operators and serves more than 30 million households in over 30 countries around the world. (See T-Mobile & Huawei Develop Wireless HBB Services and WTTx, Instant Fiber for the Unconnected.)

With the advent of 4.5G technology, massive MIMO can boost mobile network capacity by up to 600%, meaning that a single carrier can generate as much throughput as six carriers could before. Vendors like Huawei are counting on this increased throughput to make wireless broadband a potent rival to FTTH networks going forward.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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tyrellcorp
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tyrellcorp,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/31/2017 | 5:10:42 AM
Re: Untethered
MIMO antennas will help with weather.  And some providers willl deploy more micro cells on streetlights.  FTTH obvsiously best when available but just pointing out that fixed wireless will be a better service than mobile wirless and you can't compare the two.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/30/2017 | 10:37:44 PM
Re: Wireless unknown effects
@DudeVi: I suspect the final scene of Thank You for Smoking got it 100% right on that front...
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/30/2017 | 10:37:03 PM
Re: Untethered
@tyrell: Actually, my home isn't the best place in the world, exactly, for getting a signal from my carrier -- but it's usually only an issue when the weather is horrendous.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/30/2017 | 9:31:14 PM
Re: Untethered
I've run into dead spots in cell service too. We finally upgraded to a fiber connection for Internet and connectivity has been great (especially when considering the 7-10 days at a time we were regularly without service).
DudeVi
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DudeVi,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/30/2017 | 3:10:26 PM
Wireless unknown effects
Wireless promises a lot, but we are now talking about mm waves, and more dense networks. What will be the effect of such radiations on our bodies?
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
5/30/2017 | 11:38:42 AM
Re: Untethered
Depending on weather conditions of course!
tyrellcorp
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tyrellcorp,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/30/2017 | 8:11:47 AM
Re: Untethered
Joe, fixed wireless is different than mobile wireless.  You will likely have MIMO antennas outside your home or at window with fixed wireless, which increases chances of much better signal, lower latency and better performannce than with a mobile device. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/29/2017 | 9:15:03 PM
Re: Untethered
@Michelle: It's interesting.  My current carrier has poor reception in some areas -- a problem I almost never had with my old carrier (although there were a couple of troublespots even with that one).  But my old carrier had more dropped calls.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/29/2017 | 9:14:03 PM
Sure.
Indeed, 2G, 3G, and even 4G used to be criticized as too expensive for scaled-up solutions (e.g., massive IoT projects).  Now, advanced 4G LTE and, eventually, 5G look to be competitive with other networking solutions on cost for IoT and Smart Cities.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/29/2017 | 6:08:37 PM
Untethered
Sounds like wireless really might be a good choice in some areas not already wired for fiber. I'd like to see solid wireless broadband in my area. We have a couple of providers and they have an appauling reputation for poor connectivity and worse customer service.
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