“Connectivity is at the core of every company’s digital transformation. 5G will have a significant impact on how businesses work and how they engage with their customers”
By Mo Katibeh, Chief Marketing Officer, AT&T
Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), especially when deployed at high frequencies, where large amounts of bandwidth are available, is set to play a key role in delivering on the 5G vision by providing speeds that can rival those offered by cable providers. Rick Hubbard, Senior Vice President – Networking Product Management, AT&T recently stated, “We expect mmWave technology to be an important part of 5G.”
Potential use cases enabled by 5G Fixed Wireless Access include VPN and Unified Communications applications, but also gigabit internet access and 4K video streaming; services that would have been challenging to provide with legacy wireline infrastructure. Various customer segments, ranging from businesses (e.g., universities, hospitals, churches and large educational institutions) to residential customers (e.g., apartments and other residential buildings) can all benefit from the enabled use cases.
5G Fixed Wireless Access will contribute to relieve pressure from mobile network backhaul by allowing to offload part of the traffic that would be delivered over cellular connections as well as extend the reach and capacity of the mobile operator network.
5G Fixed Wireless Access Trials by AT&T
AT&T’s trials demonstrate the various use cases that can be enabled by Fixed Wireless Access. The technology has been used to provide connectivity to various customer segments such as local businesses, retail shopping centres and residential customers. This is because 5G Fixed Wireless Access, with its spectrum bands and radio innovations, enables fibre-equivalent connectivity to regions where fiber deployment may not be feasible. Indeed, the trials demonstrate fibre-equivalent performance enough to satisfy the different customer segments.
|Austin, Texas||Local businesses||1Gbps speed &
<10ms RAN latency
|Enterprise trial in 2016, residential and small business trials in 2017.|
|Waco, Texas||Retail shopping centre||1.2Gbps speed &
9-12ms RAN latency
in 150m range
|400MHz bandwidth in 28GHz band|
|Kalamazoo, Michigan||Small businesses||1Gbps speeds
in 275m range (line of sight)
|No significant impact on 5G mmWave signal performance due to rain and better than expected performance in some locations (based on e.g., foliage, glass and wall)|
|South Bend, Indiana||Small business and residential customers||Gigabit speed and extremely low latency in both line of sight and non-line of sight conditions||Full end-to-end 5G network architecture, including the 5G radio system and core|
Table – Results and highlights of AT&T’s 5G fixed wireless access trials
AT&T in cooperation with Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung (infrastructure) and Intel (devices) has been spearheading the evaluation of FWA conducting numerous trials that have helped shedding new light on how the technology acts in a business environment. AT&T has been using millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum along with 5G radio and antenna prototypes, virtualised RAN and a full 5G virtualised core.
AT&T was able to achieve superior performance with throughput in the gigabits per second range and low latency (less than 10ms RAN latency) in the 5G Fixed Wireless Access trials. The quality of performance was enough to satisfy the customer segments serviced, ranging from residential customers to local businesses. The trials also demonstrated that there was no significant impact on 5G mmWave signal due to weather events (e.g., rain) and that signal performance for materials (e.g., foliage, glass and wall) were better than expected in some locations.
Both AT&T and Ericsson have stressed the importance of these live implementations.
Marachel Knight, Senior Vice President, Technology Planning and Engineering, AT&T, emphasised, “Taking our 5G tests out of the lab and into real, high-traffic environments like a major retail location in Waco will bring a fantastic customer experience while helping us learn even more about building a 5G network of the future for both consumers and businesses.”
Joakim Sorelius, Head of Product Area Network Systems at Ericsson, said, “By testing the technologies in a live commercial-like environment and trialing new 5G use cases together, we are able to gain valuable experience in preparation for commercial deployments based on 3GPP New Radio (NR) technology.”
Consequently, trial participants have been able to experience an early glimpse into the future and see some of the real-life benefits we expect tomorrow’s 5G to offer.
The Way Ahead
The learnings from AT&T trials in live environment are guiding and speeding up AT&T’s commercial 5G launches scheduled for later this year.
Click here to download our Best Practices Guide on Fixed Wireless Access.