Summer 2018 Optical Connections Magazine


broadband can no longer keep pace on its own, preventing the most reliable, fastest connection possible from being able to reach everybody who wants it.” Of FWA, he says, “Once relegated to the trash heap of failed last-mile experiments, better technology, more available spectrum and increasing market demand are fueling a resurgence of fixed wireless that will drive to a US$10 billion equipment market by 2022.” So just how much of a threat is FWA to FTTP? No-one is dismissing it, that’s for sure and there is a general acceptance within the fibre community that FWA is here to stay, if only in limited scenarios. Keith Russell, head of global FTTx marketing activities for Nokia’s Fixed Networks group, is pragmatic. He says, “I think one of the not? The mobile operators are used to having their subscribers jumping on and off their networks all the time and they’re not necessarily used to addressing a fixed subscriber. I believe strongly in FWA but I believe in it as another tool in the toolkit. It’s another way to reach those areas that may not make economic sense to an operator or they’re difficult to reach. I think however that everyone understands that fibre is the end-game for fixed networks.” There are indeed a number of options open to any connectivity provider looking to use FWA in a given situation. Indeed, as Schoolar points out, not all fixed wireless is the same. FWA is a broad term that doesn’t adequately describe the different FWA options. FWA using point-to-multipoint technology for example, is very different from a point- to-point system specifically designed for enterprise or carrier use. LTE and 5G have both become contenders as FWA solutions recently. However, networks based on these technologies use a point-to-multipoint radio system, where network capacity at the base station is shared among multiple users, making the cellular approach most suitable for consumer, residential, and very small business. The advantage of point- to-point, which makes it particularly appealing to larger enterprises is that the full capacity of the base station is dedicated to one building or business location. That said, the building still has to be cabled unless some form internal wireless network is used and of course the traffic will have to be backhauled using fibre. So far as the cellular solutions are challenges of FWA is which kind are we talking about? Are we guaranteeing sustained rates or

concerned, as Russell points out, in the case of LTE, operators can dedicate spectrum, such as in rural areas where a provider is unable to connect subscribers with even a 10Mb service. In such cases, an operator can connect those subscribers with spectrum that it uses in urban areas but not in rural areas. While this approach opens up the ability for operators to dedicate some spectrum and guarantee the throughput to the subscribers, but not at fibre speeds. In the case of 5G, it would still be possible to dedicate network resources, but all these things bring in cost and are after all, just technology choices. There is one other alternative however, as Russell observes, “The other thing is using unlicensed spectrum, using for example Wi-Gig to connect homes for operators that don’t have spectrum. I think that’s a great example of [another] tool in the toolkit. An operator builds up fibre as far as they can and the areas they just can’t get the fibre to might be because of specific obstructions they have. They could use Wi-Gig to connect homes in those areas and still deploy fibre everywhere else they can.” CHEAP AND CHEERFUL? But what about the cost argument? How does FTTP stack up against FWA? There’s no disputing that fibre is relatively expensive to install, but there are factors which can reduce the outlay. For example, if the premise is a new build. The cost of install for FWA depends very much on the application. Using LTE or anything sub-6GHz, it is possible to use a plug -and-play indoor unit with no install costs. Using anything in the millimetre waveband however, will not be ablke to penetrate walls, meaning an outdoor antenna will be required with associated install and maintenance costs. For all the arguments in favour of FWA, that bastion of the fibre industry the FTTH Council Europe remains adamant that fibre is the superior solution, while

admitting FWA will have its part to play. Director general Erzsébet Fitori told Optical Connections, “The FTTH Council Europe is of the opinion that the performance capability of FTTH/B is unique and

no other network - fixed or wireless - is currently able to deliver

the same performances

and quality parameters as FTTH/B, in particular speed and latency, as well as energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.” She added, “The Council does not see any conflict between wireless and mobile technologies and fixed fibre-based connectivity. On the contrary we strongly believe that fixed and wireless technologies are increasingly converging and are therefore becoming more and more interdependent and complementary rather than substitutes.” So, the overall message from the industry seems to be that while FWA doesn’t pose a huge threat to FTTP, the two will most likely coexist in the grand scheme of things. The cost of deploying fibre will definitely be a factor in the more remote areas, as evidenced by Spanish operator Masmovil, which recently pulled out of 11 of the 18 FTTH projects it had been awarded by the government, turning down over €3 million of grants in the process, on the grounds that they were unlikely to be profitable. Given that many FTTP rollouts and in particular FTTH projects are being incentivised by governments, it is unlikely that the vast majority of end users, however remote they may be, will be denied fibre-fast access whatever technology is required to connect them to the network.


ISSUE 13 | Q2 2018

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