The advent of 5G will make fixed wireless deployments a more compelling prospect for both mobile and fixed operators, according to NetComm Wireless technology strategy director Els Baert. But she says that carriers branching out into fixed wireless will need to commit to installation and support standards equivalent to those on fixed-line networks – an area that NetComm itself is currently investing into heavily.

In an interview with CommsDay, Baert emphasised that 5G was very much an evolution of 4G, with some of the key features associated with it – such as beamforming and higher-order multiple-input, multiple-output tech – already possible with LTE.

“The things that 5G will bring that are not going to be in 4G are New Radio [for] more efficiently using the spectrum you already have, new frequencies… and network slicing [where] you don’t need separate networks physically to do different services, you can just do it virtually,” she said.

Still, Baert said that 5G network slicing would enable operators to simultaneously use mobile networks for mobile and fixed wireless services. And she added that the combination of next-gen 4G techs and the new frequencies unlocked for use by 5G would help secure the requisite spectrum resource to run both mobile and fixed wire-less concurrently – even in more urban areas where, previously, all of operators’ avail-able airwaves had been dedicated to mobile alone.

That’s why NetComm is anticipating growth in fixed wireless in a post-5G world, with the technology giving both fixed and mobile players opportunity for expansion. “There are a lot of [fixed] operators that don’t have full coverage and want to expand… or mobile operators that want to start offering fixed broadband,” she said. “They have the spectrum but they don’t have the lead-ins, they might not have a copper lead-in or a cable lead-in and the fibre is too expensive. And that’s where fixed wireless is going to be used to expand the footprint.”

Baert also said that deploying fixed wireless footprints would enable operators to connect Internet of Things devices and open up new revenue streams beyond their traditional consumer telecoms markets. “With fixed wireless you can start connecting anything – any machine, billboards, traffic lights, vending machines, and that expands your market massively,” she said. NetComm itself builds industrial IoT devices, specialising in kit designed for particularly challenging deployment cases.

SERVICE EXPECTATIONS: But Baert also warned that fixed wireless carried with it different service expectations than mobile.

“In a mobile network, the operator only has visibility up to the basestation… and we buy phones, we move around, we know it’s going to work great at certain points but not at others. [On] a fixed network, endusers don’t accept that,” she said. “They want reliability, they want to know what they’re going to get, they want to get it at all times, they want higher speeds and they want support.”

For that reason, NetComm is currently channelling investment into tools and processes for fixed wireless installation and management, working closely with its carrier customers. “We’ve been doing fixed wireless devices since 2006, so we are absolutely a world leader in that; in that experience of what it actually means to do a fixed wireless network and extend that trusted zone to the home to make sure you can do that true alternative,” said Baert.

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Reprinted under license from CommsDay