Pamela MALLETTE: Welcome back to 15 Minutes with 5G, a bi-weekly discussion with the industry’s big brains about the latest developments in 5G, and what they mean for consumers, businesses, and society in general. Today we are going to talk about the 29 billion devices that will be connected by 2022 and how fixed wireless access might be the technology to satisfy the bandwidth thirsty apps that come along with all those devices. I’m joined by Anders Svensson, Principle Solution Manager for 5G. Anders, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
5G fixed wireless access is a technology that’s drawing a lot of interest these days as a realistic solution to that so-called last mile problem? So, what advantages does 5G bring in general?
Anders SVENSSON: 5G is actually not a technology that is focused on fixed wireless in general. It is focused on evolving the current mobile systems that we have today to support multiple different types of services. And the primary three categories of services would be that:
- You will be able to provide much higher bandwidth and capacity.
- The second piece is that you are able to provide reliable communication and low latency communication for providing services for autonomous cars or remote control of machinery or other types of service.
- And the last one is the Internet of Things (IoT) ‒ being able to support devices that can have very low cost and low energy consumption.
For the fixed wireless the first category of requirements or solutions that 5G provides is what is attractive when you will have a much higher capacity that can be offered for the fixed wireless subscribers.
MALLETTE: That’s great. Why does that change the landscape for networks from what existed before?
SVENSSON: Currently in the current technology we have actually used fixed wireless as a concept with using the LTE or 4G. But it had been primarily targeted to the rural area where you don’t have the overall high capacity needs that you have in a more dense urban setting. With 5G and the much higher capacity and capacity density that you can get, you will now be able to do an offering in more suburban and even urban settings where you can offer a fixed wireless internet service to more subscribers with a higher demand.
MALLETTE: That sounds great, too. What’s the basic principle of fixed wireless access and how is it different from traditional fiber?
SVENSSON: The fixed wireless concept is primarily a view that you are replacing the last leg of wire or fiber to the subscriber (the residents or the enterprise). And by doing so, you will get the more flexible deployment of the service. With 5G you are able to then offer a level of service that can compete with fiber which means that you now have an offering that could be deployed in areas where you, as an alternative, would do fiber. It is not working in all cases, but in some cases and some densities, that’s where it will be more attractive to do fixed wireless.
MALLETTE: Does fixed wireless access change the economics of connecting those homes and businesses?
SVENSSON: Yes, it does. The economics primarily change because you get a lower capital intensive deployment ‒ meaning that you have a little bit lower enter points to getting into offering service in an area ‒ which means that the business case turns the other way around where it can grow as the actual demands, when you’re assigning subscribers, are increasing.
MALLETTE: It’s a spend as you grow model versus an initial very large investment.
SVENSSON: Yes, traditionally fiber is very capital intensive. In the beginning, you make a lot of upfront investment in order to put the cable and pass the homes. And then, while you then add on new subscribers, is not so expensive but still an added cost when you are adding the individual subscribers and connect the actual home from the street. With fixed wireless, you will do less fiber deployment in the neighborhood. And then you will add a 5G modem to the house where you offer the service and then it would be a wireless communication for the last piece. So you will do less deployment of fiber in the neighborhood, but you will be able to still offer the service in the entire neighborhood from day one.
MALLETTE: Oh, that sounds really good. So where is 5G fixed wireless access best applied?
SVENSSON: Especially, when we come to the high capacity technology which leverages millimeter wave, then the most attractive area is when you have rather dense areas of potential subscribers meaning suburban areas and some urban areas. The millimeter wave will not be that attractive in rural areas where we today also have the previous technology. But also, we could see 5G used in lower bands in order to provide better coverage, but still being able to offer a good service, but not having that high level of capacity needs because there are not so many potential subscribers (meaning residential homes). In some suburban areas, we will see higher capacity demand as you sign up more subscribers and there the millimeter wave high capacity, high-density deployment will be more attractive, and that’s where we can see the initial deployment will be.
MALLETTE: Initially, I guess in rural areas not so much of an opportunity for fixed wireless access?
SVENSSON: For fixed wireless, yes, but probably in many cases, it will be with LTE to start with because that’s where the ecosystem alternative is strongest.
MALLETTE: What steps should operators take to make sure that their 5G fixed wireless access strategy aligns with the business?
SVENSSON: An important thing for an access provider is to look at holistically what they should use in wireless in general ‒ meaning that what they can use this infrastructure for beyond the fixed wireless deployment. Because 5G also provides an opportunity to offer a multitude of services, like I said at the beginning, where you can also offer high capacity but reliable communication, and also low latency communication, but also provide services related to IoT and so on. So, looking at the holistic way on how you can leverage this infrastructure that you are investing ‒ both short term and long term ‒ for other services than fixed wireless is an important thing to consider when you are doing the deployment and investment cases.
MALLETTE: Sounds like there’s a lot of opportunity that come along with 5G ‒ not only the technology, but then how that network is going to be used, how those technologies are going to be applied, and the different things the consumers are going to demand, basically as a result of having all these bandwidths available?
SVENSSON: Yes, and that is really the driver for 5G from the beginning, meaning that the 4G networks that we have today cannot provide the full capacity that we’ve seen the demand. We have an almost 60-80% yearly growth of traffic in the North American market and with that demand we will need to have the new technology in order to provide the mobile broadband experience that we have today. But also, the digitalization in different industries drives the need for both the reliable and low latency communication, as well as the IoT where you can offer sensors and so on to be able to be deployed in order to make an industry more efficient by leveraging wireless communication. And as an operator, it is important to see how that is creating new business opportunity for them in order to be able to leverage and offer services to the new industries.
MALLETTE: It is scary enough for me to see my teenagers downloading all kinds of stuff and watching videos on their phones constantly, but now to think that my refrigerator is going to start to talk to me and all that is going to be able to be done over these technologies, it’s pretty cool. A little bit scary, but pretty cool [laughter]. Why is Ericsson the best company to help these carriers on this journey?
SVENSSON: From an Ericsson perspective, we are leaders in wireless globally, and we are also looking into all these aspects of being able to offer several types of services and many types of services in the network. We consider that both when we are making plans for how to deploy the network as well as how we develop our products. So that they are able to be flexibly used for offering services in all the categories that 5G can offer. And enable the operator to differentiate the services based on what is applicable for different industries including also for fixed wireless.
MALLETTE: I know that we have had a very strong presence with radio, and network equipment, hardware, but now with all of this comes not only the hardware and the services, and we also have all that expertise and resident big brains like yours, but lots of people around Ericsson are talking about the possibilities.
SVENSSON: Even now Ericsson is not only providing the radio part; we are providing the whole mobile systems including the core and so on. And this will also be impacted by 5G where you need to make sure that you have an end-to-end experience for the different type of services that you have. All of that Ericsson brings to the table in the discussion with a partner that we are working with.
MALLETTE: The Ericsson Radio System as you say, it’s very impressive. I think that we have thought through all of the different pieces that have to go together to make this end-to-end solution and we are trying to make it a one-stop shop for our carrier customers. Is there anything that you want to share with us about things that might be coming that we can’t be specific about, but things that personally excite you?
SVENSSON: What excites me is that all these new capabilities that will be available ‒ where you can immerse yourself moving from one place to another by being able to get a visual experience from maybe going to a stadium when you are not there and so on. It’s kind of interesting. It’s difficult to sometimes predict or kind of understand really how it will be in the bigger society. But it will be definitely changing our world a lot ‒ just like you see our kids are using our systems in a very different way than what we are doing. That is interesting to see and excites me.
MALLETTE: It is exciting. Anders, thank you so much for your time today, I really do appreciate talking with you, and I’m looking forward to seeing when all the stuff starts to roll out.
SVENSSON: You are welcome. Thanks for having me.
MALLETTE: And thank you all for listening. If you would like more information, please visit ericsson.com/5g-northamerica. And if you like what you’ve heard, please subscribe to the podcast.