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5G is about fixed and mobile – 4G was a pure mobile play

Editor’s note: This is the third part of Peter Linder’s four-part series of posts explaining the lessons to recall from 4G deployment as we get ready for 5G. See the related links below for the other posts in this series. The introduction of 5G will shape both fixed and mobile networks. This is a big difference compared to 4G, which was a pure mobile play. All previous mobile radio technologies have been introduced for mobile, with fixed wireless as a later addition. For 5G, we expect a different balance with fixed wireless higher up on the list of priorities during the launch.

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4G-enabled mobile broadband

The 4G introduction was centered around a mobile broadband pure play. The potential to provide a new user experience with an upgrade from 3G feature phones to 4G smartphones was sufficient to drive a whole mobile network technology generation. The mobile broadband success recipe – best effort internet connectivity, a broad spectrum of apps driving usage, and broad availability of terminals – was mature and proven in 3G for immediate re-use in 4G.

The users’ demand for capacity and even higher peak speeds comes from a broad market acceptance for on-demand video consumption on mobile devices. The majority of previous video innovation has targeted the TV first, but with very capable smartphones and 4G network capabilities, on-demand video consumption is now a mobile phenomenon for anything up to and beyond full length movies.

The deployment of 4G for fixed wireless applications has been limited so far. This is partly due to the very strong market momentum for mobile broadband to smartphones and partly due to the challenges mobile technology has been facing for fixed wireless; for example NMT, DECT, LMDS, GSM, WCDMA, and WiMax.

5G mobile and fixed wireless broadband

The reach of 5G changes the game. 5G will have a tighter coupling to the fixed networks and you can argue than the combination of fiber and 5G will be part of the same network in the future. The network convergence discussed over the past two decades will approach realization when 5G is introduced.

Fixed wireless can be seen as a subset of mobile broadband with many of the advanced mobility capabilities turned off when used for fixed deployments. Fixed network strategies need a complement to fiber and very high speed DSL to address the whole portfolio of challenges that will be seen in the fixed network over the coming decade.

5G is the first mobile technology suitable for mass-market distribution of on-demand HD/4K TV. Fixed wireless 5G, therefore, becomes relevant to consider for 5G introduction strategies even before mobile 5G is introduced.

Predictions for the near term future

  • 5G will be introduced both for mobile and fixed wireless applications early on.
  • 5G fixed wireless will be exposed to the same set of fixed wireless access challenges as previous mobile technology generations.
  • The mobile radio evolution with 5G, small cells, and macro densification will bring fixed and wireless closer together in the 5G and fiber age.

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