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5G fixed wireless access market grows in the US

Carriers and startups are beginning to extend their 5G fixed wireless access offerings across the U.S. as they roll out new services in 2020.

Fixed wireless access is a means of providing internet access to homes and other buildings using mobile technology rather than fixed DSL or cable lines. With 5G, fixed wireless access technology can deliver internet at broadband speeds, rivaling cable operators.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the use of FWA by enabling the rapid deployment of 5G connections in new hospitals and reinforcing the capabilities of existing broadband networks. ABI Research expects that enhanced mobile broadband will be the basis of 5G expansion for enterprise verticals, like healthcare and public safety services, in 2020 and 2021, proving 5G is more than just a consumer-focused mobile broadband network update.

Verizon 5G fixed wireless access market

In June, Verizon restarted its broadband FWA program, known as 5G Home. The operator kicked off its sixth 5G fixed market in parts of Detroit on June 10 and plans to have 10 cities up on 5G FWA by the end of 2020. Verizon originally started a nonstandard 5G fixed service in October 2018. The company currently offers standard 5G FWA based on the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in parts of Houston, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Detroit.

One important update to the newly 3GPP-compliant FWA service is Verizon enables customers to install the 5G equipment themselves, cutting back on the operator's need for costly truck rolls when the system is put in place. For example, customers that order fixed 5G access have the option to choose professional installation or self-install, according to Verizon.

5G use cases
Fixed wireless is one of many 5G use cases.

AT&T 5G fixed wireless access market

AT&T does not have a widespread 5G fixed wireless access program at present, but company spokesman Scott Huscher said fixed is "a large part" of the operator's strategy for business 5G. The operator started its mobile 5G push in December 2018 by issuing hotspots to business customers in its first markets using the technology.

Huscher said the carrier is currently concentrating on its low-band 850 MHz mobile 5G deployment across the U.S. "We may offer additional fixed services for some enterprise customers in the future depending on economics and what makes sense," Huscher said.

5G FWA startups

Meanwhile, startups such as Starry and Common Networks are starting to offer 5G service in some U.S. cities, using microwave and millimeter wave (MM wave) wireless to serve broadband to businesses and apartment buildings. "Starry and Common Networks are getting 5G connections through the rooftop, then delivered to customers through Wi-Fi," said Earl Lum, president of EJL Wireless Research.

Starry currently uses 28 GHz for its service and operates in parts of Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C. Common Networks uses 6 GHz microwave and 60 GHz MM wave connections and serves five towns and cities in Northern California, including Santa Clara and San Jose. The company plans to offer more markets in the area soon.

Next Steps

It's not Wi-Fi 6 vs. 5G -- it's Wi-Fi 6 and 5G

This was last published in July 2020

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