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5G Services & Applications

5G fixed wireless access and ROI opportunities for telcos

by Blogs & Opinions
Article Image The 5G World team had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Mohamed Madkour, vice president of Wireless Networks Marketing & Solutions at Huawei Technologies, to discuss the future of 5G, the impact of the technology on vertical markets and how technological developments such as Mobile Edge Computing are going to change telco services.

5G World: 5G Fixed wireless access (FWA) is said to be a big opportunity for telcos, but they need guaranteed ROI before they invest. Can you showcase measurable benefits for such an investment for service providers?

Dr. Mohamed Madkour: First, let me point out that it's an undeniable fact that the ICT industry platform is the central tool for recovering national economies that are fractured by the virus and the global macro situation. It is a very critical time for telcos now to leverage and retain their seat in the middle of the telecom stage. As a matter of fact telcos are now seen as national growth accelerators. Investing in new technologies like 5G, AI and cloud brings value to themselves, to the whole society and eventually to their countries.

Back to your question regarding FWA, there is no doubt that it's a key market segment for mobile network operators (MNO) at the moment. I can briefly mention three reasons for that: First is the strength and the capabilities of the enabling technical solutions for both 4G and 5G that deliver the speed and capacity needed for home and businesses broadband access.

Second is the commercial viability given the significant drop in the cost per bit as well as the CPE prices as well. Third is the operational excellence when it comes to running the network for both mobile and fixed users and also availability of optimization tools.

Of course, the fast time to provision and easy connection make the business solution very attractive. With 5G, FWA is not considered complementary to fiber anymore. It is a competing technology and a competing business solution for carriers that want to address the broadband segment.

Regarding your question about a measurable metric to compare wired and wireless broadband access one very obvious measurable indicator is that if we compare cost to deploy and serve the broadband user, namely home pass cost for the access network deployment and home connect cost, FTTH is typically in the range of $500 to $1000, while FWA is typically in the range of $200 to $500. At the same cost of $300 cost per line, 4G FWA could offer 20Mbps of average user speed during busy hours, while 5G can offer average user speed of over 100Mbps. As 5G CPE costs continue to drop, 5G FWA cost and profitability will surely be more attractive for telcos.

5G World: What vertical markets do you expect to pick up on 5G services first and why?

MM: Besides consumer and home segments, vertical industries or what is called 5G-to-B is certainly going to enjoy the highest growth rate. What we are seeing right now is the emergence of 5G private line access to enterprises and how that enables integration of connectivity, which makes for a very attractive business solution.

From the perspective of industry maturity, solutions in healthcare, education, transportation and surveillance domains are mature and can be widely used. In China, ports, mines and iron and steel industries have been explored in depth; in particular, some core applications in these industries, such as video surveillance and remote control, are ready for deployment. The key here is to identify the national problem or the industry that really needs to be addressed and then 5G will certainly serve to solve this. It is going to be different from one country to another. Basically, there is no technical limitation on which vertical can be picked thanks to completion of 3GPP Release 16 of 5G standards.

5G World: How is MEC going to change telco services and partnerships with other ecosystem players? When do you expect this technology to become mainstream?

MM: First, I want to point out that 5G is not standing on the stage by itself and there are many other technologies that are making 5G so great. Guo Ping, Huawei's Rotating Chairman, on his HC2020 opening keynote, identified five key domains and stated that excelling in 5G commercialization relies on the synergy between those domains.

These domains are: connectivity, AI, cloud, compute and industry applications. Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) is enabled by 5G Stand Alone (SA); the operators that go for 5G SA will also move faster with MEC services. In 2021, MEC services will be booming in China, USA, Japan, Korea, Europe and the Middle East. After being materialized in those countries, you will see it spread all over the world.

Compared with traditional telco services, there are three key changes when operators consider introducing MEC. There are scenario-based tailored boxes, different business models and new integration scopes. To meet service requirements from vertical industries, operators need to cooperate with ecosystem partners in terms of industrial-specific applications. Therefore, operators' offerings might range from basic 5G connectivity to a full portfolio including multiple equipment provisioning and applications as well.

5G World: What will 'full-service 5G' look like? What are the key aspects of network evolution toward 2025?

MM: I think the best description of mobile 2025 relates back to what you mentioned in your question as "full service." Mobile networks should meet the requirements of all segments: consumers, homes and industry verticals as well. These will all converge over the next five years and need to be supported by the same network in an optimum fashion. The next two years is the key period for incubating 5G-to-B service. In addition, AR/VR and cloud gaming are expected to break through key breakpoints and begin to mature. These services raise higher requirements to the network; for example, 200 Mbps user speed and 10-20 msec E2E latency should be widely available.

From 2023 to 2025, we predict that more new services, such as autonomous driving, smart manufacturing, UAV monitoring and higher definition AR/VR. Therefore, higher network capabilities, reliability and lower E2E latency will be required on mobile network.

To meet different demands or industries requirements; all scenarios should be considered including mobile, satellite or short distance communications. To do that, holistic spectrum view and efficient utilization are important no matter whether Sub 3 GHz, Sub 6 GHz or Sub 100 GHz (of course depending on the spectrum availability) are utilized.

Ubiquity also should include virtual private networks to cover some facilities and enterprises. In summary, there are five pillars that carriers should follow in realizing this target network of all scenario full service:

  • Full scenario ubiquitous coverage
  • Powerful network with deterministic experience and differentiated capabilities
  • Simplified networks no matter the architecture, sites, spectrum, core or transport
  • Efficiency whether it is energy, spectrum, deployment, or even box integration efficiency
  • Intelligence deployment everywhere locally, both in the edge and metro. Full automation is also key.

5G World: You joined us at the 5G World Virtual Event 2020; what was your highlight of the virtual show?

MM: We are missing face-to-face networking and social activities, but I think there are positive sides for virtual events too. First, tremendous cost savings in time and money. Second, more focus on content and jumping to the right session seamlessly. Overall, I think you did a good job in putting together a simple platform with diversified content and global speakers.

— Francesca Greane, Marketing, Content and Community Lead, Informa Tech

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash.

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