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Wireless Infrastructure Newsletter

The Case for Fixed Wireless Access September 01 2017

Broadband internet service in the U.S. has been plagued by uncompetitive practices. Large, nationwide internet service providers (ISPs) have built monopolies that prohibit innovation, drive down levels of service, and block competitors from entering the market. In their 2016 Broadband Progress Report, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that only 38% of Americans have more than one choice of broadband provider, and only 10% of Americans have access to broadband speeds of up to 25 Mbps downlink/3 Mbps uplink. Many Americans lack access to broadband internet entirely, especially in rural areas: 39% of rural Americans, 4% of urban Americans, and 41% of Americans living on Tribal lands do not have access to broadband services. In light of these factors, the FCC concluded that “advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.”

Compounding this issue is the ever-increasing consumer demand for broadband access. Online media continues to grow in popularity, and as a result many wireline and cable service providers are experiencing customer churn. In the first quarter of 2017, 612,000 Americans cancelled their pay-TV subscriptions (referred to as “cutting the cord”), and an additional 10.8 million pay-TV subscribers are predicted to cut the cord by 2021. As pay-TV gives way to online subscription services, the need for fast and reliable broadband internet is being brought into sharp focus.

Some organizations have attempted to provide a better broadband option to consumers, through the deployment of fiber-optic networks. For example, Google Fiber, announced in 2010, offers fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) high-speed broadband internet with downlink speeds of up to 1 Gbps. Verizon Fios is another FTTH fiber solution that offers high speed broadband, up to a “Fios Gigabit Connection” of 940 Mbps down/880 Mbps up. Such networks serve to raise consumer expectations of broadband internet, pressuring ISPs to improve service. However, deploying fiber networks is a slow and expensive process, with an installation cost estimated to be approximately $1000 per home. Accordingly, despite the high speeds available with fiber, time and cost expenses prohibit fiber as a practical broadband remedy.

Therefore, to overcome the problems of anti-competitive ISPs and increasing demand for high speed broadband services, a new solution is required. A promising option is to adopt millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, which covers the spectrum from 30 – 300 GHz, to deploy fixed broadband wireless solutions. In 2015, to prepare for future Fifth Generation (5G) mobile services, the FCC proposed licensing for spectrum bands in the mmWave range, including 27.5 – 28.35 GHz, 37 – 38.6 GHz, 38.6 – 40 GHz, 57 – 64 GHz, and 64 – 71 GHz. Though mmWave bands show potential for future broadband services, many of them suffer from the existing problem of ISP monopolies. With recent multi-billion dollar acquisitions of smaller providers, large ISPs like AT&T and Verizon have already begun dominating ownership of mmWave bands. Together, these two companies own over 50% of available licensed mmWave spectrum in the U.S.

However, service providers that can’t afford the cost of licensed mmWave bands have another option: the use of unlicensed mmWave bands, such as the 60 GHz V-Band. With 14 GHz of contiguous spectrum available, and commercial chipsets and products already developed for this band, providers can deploy gigabit-to-the-home (GTTH), fixed wireless access (FWA) for nothing more than a minimal cost of infrastructure. Thus, the unlicensed 60 GHz V-Band offers service providers an excellent opportunity to offer competitive gigabit services.

We will soon be publishing a white paper on behalf of a client on 5G Fixed Wireless Gigabit Services Today- An Industry Overview, stay tuned!

Wi-Fi 360 provides market research and content marketing services (such as this blog)for the Wi-Fi and wireless industry. If you are interested in sponsoring a piece of research, white paper, webinar or need a more comprehensive content marketing plan, do not hesitate to contact us!

Antitrust agencies will be on high alert over AT&T/Time Warner bid October 24 2016

AT&T has pulled off one surprise with its bid to acquire Time Warner for $85.4bn – prompted an opinion from Donald Trump on which most can agree. Trump said the merger would concentrate too much power in the hands of a few, and the current wave of consolidation between US telcos and media/web companies will certainly test the antitrust regulators.

Recent Wi-Fi successes encourage FCC to relax 5GHz restrictions April 08 2014

By Peter White, Principal Analyst Wi-Fi and digital multimedia

Last week saw a significant breakthrough for US Wi-Fi spectrum in terms of flexibility and capacity. The FCC signed a ruling which increases the radiated power that can be applied in parts of the 5GHz unlicensed spectrum; removes the indoor-only requirements in the 100MHz from 5.150-5.250GHz; and extends the 5.8GHz band by an extra 25 MHz, from a prior 5.825GHz upper limit to 5.85GHz.

Some of these changes are to bring the US in line with other regimes across the world, while others come as a result of two key factors – cable industry lobbying pressure and a period of experience where no real complaints against unlicensed usage have been upheld. Indeed, every case of interference registered in the past has now been attributed to equipment that was either faulty or which did not adhere to the standard, proving that unlicensed spectrum works and is safely managed.

And with that, the FCC commissioners promised to make at least another 195MHz of further spectrum available in future in the 5GHz band, along with the creation of more unlicensed spectrum use in the 3.5GHz and 600MHz bands, the latter to be freed up by broadcasters under FCC incentives.

The initial order allows Wi-Fi equipment to target performance above 1Gbps in operation and as further chunks of spectrum are made available, it could one day double that.

There are a few important things to take away from this move. Firstly that the rest of the world will mostly follow. Wi-Fi spectrum is not unified, but there is a commitment across the globe for regulators to try their best to make it easy to export devices from one part of the world to another, with minimal adjustment. Where this has not yet been done in other parts of the world, it will follow.

Secondly the speed at which this came about shows that those lobbying in favor of Wi-Fi are strong, and the economic benefits of having lots of unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi and other technologies are measurable and good for any country issuing more.

Thirdly this sends a message to the cellular community that ‘the water is fine, come on in’. Efforts, led by Qualcomm, to demonstrate 4G in this same unlicensed spectrum is one way to go, squeezing Wi-Fi in its own space. However, if the cellular community were to do this, it would crush down the effectiveness of this new spectrum, by creating interference and by making investment in Wi-Fi less profitable.

This order from the FCC makes it clear that MNOs would be welcome to build out their own Wi-Fi, but then like all Wi-Fi, it needs to be for the benefit of everyone, not a single MNO customer base. The powerful Wi-Fi lobbying community would explode if 4G limited its options to a single MNO in any of the major western territories.

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