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5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) Technology

[Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) - everythingRF]


- Fixed Wireless Service (FWA)

Fixed wireless is fairly new, and despite the way it sounds, it doesn’t utilize a cellular network like your mobile phone does. This approach involves connecting existing fiber, cable, or xDSL Internet between two fixed locations via a radio and a receiver. Fixed wireless relies on small stations to transfer data at high speeds, similar to a satellite but localized. Because the stations are clustered close together, the technology is capable of delivering faster Internet speeds than 4G LTE networks with lower latency. Many providers see fixed wireless as a way to expand the edges of their current service footprints with a reliable, cost-effective approach.

5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) will be one of the earliest uses of 5G. 5G FWA will provide lightning fast gigabit Internet speeds to homes, apartments, and businesses. Better yet, 5G FWA will be a fraction of the cost compared to traditional cable & fiber systems. Just like any brand new technology innovations, there's a handful of challenges and hurdles when it comes to fixed wireless access systems.

In many areas Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) implementations can provide cost effective solutions that bridge gaps in digital equity and meet the higher demand of home connections. FWA users tend to consume exponentially higher volumes of data as compared to eMBB increasing the demand for spectrum.


- 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)

5G FWA enables network operators to deliver ultra-high-speed broadband to suburban and rural areas, supporting home and business applications where fiber is prohibitively expensive to lay and maintain. Given the current speed and capacity of cellular networks with LTE and its evolution to 5G, there are opportunities for mobile network operators (MNOs) to deliver broadband services to homes and small and medium-sized enterprises economically using FWA. 

5G FWA is the top-ranked 5G use case among consumers globally - as long as it performs as well as current broadband services. FWA, connecting homes and businesses and getting closer to customers, by offering fixed gigabit broadband on 5G. 5G FWA is one of burgeoning areas of the new technology, as it will enable new levels of competition between carriers and ISPs, as well as new services with much lower latency, high speed connections for cloud computing, gaming and more. 5G fixed wireless applications will initially rely often on fiber broadband backhaul connections. The 5G tower will connect to legacy high-speed fiber networks that currently power the Internet backbone, but then transmit to customer premise equipment over 5G Sub-6 and mmWave connections, wirelessly. 


- 5G FWA Advantages

5G FWA in the lower bands of the wireless spectrum can be used to quickly and cheaply deliver an alternative to wired broadband. In the millimeter wavelengths, 5G FWA can provide a level of service bandwidth capacity comparable to fiber optics. These narrow beams also enable a higher density of users without causing interference. While mmWave penetration through common building materials - including newer types of glass - is low, Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) with antenna’s external to the home or office can dramatically mitigate signal degradation. Unlike wired local loops, these could still be readily self-installed by business or residential subscribers. 

Providing more than simply a path to enhanced Mobile Broadband, FWA built on a true 5G core lays the groundwork for entirely new service offerings requiring low latency while demanding high bandwidths.

Of the three primary frequency bands envisioned around the globe for the purpose of 5G, those in the mid Ghz range are most appropriate for FWA. Providing superior coverage and moderate throughput, the 3.4-3.8 GHz band is appropriate for low density suburban or rural areas. While exterior antennas would still likely be required, the 24.25 to 27.5GHz range is suitable for serving higher density suburban locales and cities. Unlike its mobile counterpart, 5G FWA CPE is not space or power constrained and can therefore employ Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas and beamforming techniques on the uplink (UL) at different frequencies to the Downlink (DL), thereby improving upload throughput.


- Antennas

Fixed wireless services typically use a directional radio antenna on each end of the signal (e.g., on each building). These antennas are generally larger than those seen in Wi-Fi setups and are designed for outdoor use. Several types of radio antennas are available that accommodate various weather conditions, signal distances and bandwidths. They are usually selected to make the beam as narrow as possible and thus focus transmit power to their destination, increasing reliability and reducing the chance of eavesdropping or data injection. The links are usually arranged as a point-to-point setup to permit the use of these antennas. This also permits the link to have better speed and or better reach for the same amount of power. 

These antennas are typically designed to be used in the unlicensed ISM band radio frequency bands (900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), however, in most commercial installations, licensed frequencies may be used to ensure quality of service (QoS) or to provide higher connection speeds.


- Fixed Wireless Broadband

With fixed wireless, there are no cables required. Instead, a “fixed” antenna is installed on the house, similar to how a satellite dish might be installed. This antenna then creates a wireless connection with a nearby wireless tower, which can connect to many antennas at the same time. When the fixed antenna receives the signal, it can send the connection down a short cable and into the house, where it can link up to a router or other device as needed. Inside the house, once 5G devices are out in the world, you may not notice anything is different at all.

With the growing infrastructure of wireless networks, and improving speed and reliability, fixed wireless has also become a viable solution for broadband access. Businesses and homes can use fixed-wireless antenna technology to access broadband Internet and Layer 2 networks using fixed wireless broadband. Networks which have redundancy and saturation and antennas that can aggregate signal from multiple carriers are able to offer fail-over and redundancy for connectivity not generally afforded by wired connections. 

Fixed wireless delivers broadband from the backbone of the Internet by using base stations to transfer the signal from building to building, like a local satellite. These dedicated wireless connections are usually much faster than current cellular (4G) networks and have low latency, but are limited to densely populated areas because they require line-of-sight connectivity.

In rural areas where wired infrastructure is not yet available, fixed-wireless broadband can be a viable option for Internet access. For FWA to be a viable alternative to fixed broadband, including xDSL, cable and fiber-optic access technologies, it must be able to be dimensioned with comparable capacity and performance. While 5G will make this possible, there is also a range of markets to be addressed with LTE technology on the way to 5G.


[More to come ...]

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