Can 5G fixed wireless solve in-building wireless needs?

Learn how early 5G deployments could be a boon for enterprise connectivity needs

Modern building tenants, whether a small- to medium-sized enterprise or large manufacturing facility, require in-building cellular connectivity. The inability to deliver five bars inside can drive away potential lessees while generating complaints and demands from existing renters, both of which hurt a building owner’s bottom line.

The obvious solution is an in-building cellular system–a small cell or cells, a distributed antenna system (DAS) or a hybrid of the two. By generating the signal inside, the problem of taking an inside-out approach, relying on a powerful macro tower to blast RF signal into a building is solved. But, as operators aggressively densify their networks with both macro towers and small cells in the push toward commercialization of 5G, could a new twist on the outside-in approach prove workable?

5G

In the U.S., Verizon and AT&T have both conducted extensive testing of 5G fixed wireless access proving out a variety of geographic and use case elements of delivering multi-gigabit-per-second throughput from pre-standard 5G nodes transmitting in high-capacity millimeter wave frequencies albeit over limited distances.

Beginning earlier this year, Verizon began piloting 5G fixed wireless for the delivery of broadband services from several hundred cell sites covering several thousand customer locations. Test cities include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington. Now, according to a Nov. 29 announcement from the operator, those tests will give way to commercial residential service beginning in the second half of 2018 with the first deployment in Sacramento.

“This is a landmark announcement for customers and investors who have been waiting for the 5G future to become a reality,” said Hans Vestberg, Verizon president of Global Networks and Chief Technology Officer. “We appreciate our strong ecosystem partners for their passion and technological support in helping us drive forward with 5G industry standards, for both fixed and mobile applications. The targeted initial launches we are announcing today will provide a strong framework for accelerating 5G’s future deployment on the global standards.”

AT&T has tested its variant of 5G fixed wireless access in use cases including a multiple-dwelling unit, an enterprise office and smaller businesses including a car wash and a dentist’s office. They are using the high-capacity radio link to deliver a variety of applications that rely on enhanced mobile broadband, a primary use case for 5G, as well as its DirecTV streaming television service.

In the MDU example, which highlights how access to connectivity can directly impact leasing rates and retention, AT&T said its 5G fixed wireless service delivered 360-video, international video-conferencing and television. In Austin, one of the pilot cities, Dave Swenson, owner of Arbor Car Wash and Lube Center said, “We’ve been giving Austinites the best car wash and service experiences for over 20 years, and this trial sounded like a way to make those experiences better.”

While 5G fixed wireless access isn’t being billed as a replacement for in-building cellular systems, these early use cases suggest that at least in some commercial scenarios, this emerging technology could deliver the quality of connection consumers have come to expect.

 

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