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5G Fixed Wireless Internet and Satellite Internet

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(Jungfrau, Switzerland - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)

 

 

5G FWA: Game Changer for Fixed Broadband

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is an established means of providing Internet access to homes using wireless mobile network technology rather than fixed lines. FWA enables network operators to deliver ultra-high-speed broadband to suburban and rural areas, supporting home and business applications where fiber is prohibitively expensive to lay and maintain. For the first time, the advent of 5G is allowing mobile technology to intersect with the demands of fixed line services and price points. 5G FWA employs standardized 3GPP architectures and common mobile components to deliver ultra-high-speed broadband services to residential subscribers and enterprise customers.

While FWA can often prove more convenient to set up, its key weakness compared to fixed line broadband is performance. Current mobile network technology (4G LTE) simply isn’t able to provide download speeds or latency levels that can compete with a modern fibre broadband connection. However, the next stage of FWA will utilise 5G network technology, such as beam-forming and a high-frequency mmWave (millimeter wave) spectrum, to provide a considerable performance boost to wireless broadband services.

In addition, previous FWA initiatives failed due to the proprietary nature of the technology they employed. This resulted in a poor ecosystem of equipment vendors and support, which consequently reduced competitive choices and increases prices. In contrast, the 5G supplier ecosystem is already large and continually growing, with the addition of standardized User Equipment (UE), merchant silicon and mobile networking equipment that can be reused for FWA with no modification. 

5G FWA retains the key benefit of current FWA offerings in that it enables the establishment of a quick and cheap broadband service, even in areas that don’t have ready access to fixed line home broadband. 5G FWA doesn’t require any engineering works at the customer end - just the provision of so-called Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs), which can be readily self-installed by the subscriber.

 

- Fixed Wireless Internet

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is a fast growing solution to increased demand in Internet usage, particularly when a third of the population is working from home. More than 1 billion homes worldwide still find themselves without a regular broadband connection. FWA is an established means of providing Internet access to homes using wireless mobile network technology rather than fixed lines. For example, current A&T Fixed Wireless Internet delivers high-speed Internet service to eligible rural households and small businesses via an outdoor antenna and indoor Wi-Fi Gateway router.

Fixed wireless Internet is different from more common connections like xDSL. Instead of using a xDSL it brings the Internet signal to your home via radio waves transmitted by a base station. When you opt for fixed wireless Internet, your provider will install a receiver on your house. It will communicate with the nearest wireless base station and offer you access to the web via a cable carrying the broadband signal from the receiver to the router in your house. 

Fixed wireless Internet is mainly used in rural areas where setting up the infrastructure for broadband services like xDSL (or cable, fiber) is prohibitively expensive. Transporting and burying cables in the ground and getting the necessary permits can be expensive. So it doesn’t make financial sense for service providers to go down this road in less populated areas, where they can’t get enough subscribers on board to justify the total costs. 

The problem with fixed wireless Internet is that the connection isn’t always stable. Rain, fog, and other weather conditions can affect its strength. There also has to be a line of sight between the receiver on your house and the wireless base station. Obstructions such as trees and hills can affect the quality of the service and can even prevent it from being set up.

With the growing infrastructure of wireless networks, and improving speed and reliability, fixed wireless has also become a viable solution for broadband access. Businesses and homes can use fixed-wireless antenna technology to access broadband Internet and Layer 2 networks using fixed wireless broadband. Networks which have redundancy and saturation and antennas that can aggregate signal from multiple carriers are able to offer fail-over and redundancy for connectivity not generally afforded by wired connections. In rural areas where wired infrastructure is not yet available, fixed-wireless broadband can be a viable option for Internet access.

 

- Satellite Internet  

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(How Data Moves Through A Satellite Network - GroundControl)

Satellite Internet is another option for those living in areas where fixed broadband services are not available. Although it also requires a dish and provides you with high-speed Internet access without using a phone or cable line, satellite is different from fixed wireless in many ways. 

Customers who live in remote locations, such as farms, deserts, and mountainous areas, may require a satellite Internet service. This involves transmitting and receiving data from a satellite orbiting about 22,000 miles above the earth. Although satellite communication is not as fast as other mediums, it does provide flexibility with limited environmental impact, and there is not as much need for support from the local telecommunications company. These satellite terminals can also be used when setting up natural disaster recovery centers. For example, FEMA used a satellite terminal during Hurricane Katrina, since the public telecommunication infrastructure was severely damaged.

Satellite Internet is the ability to transmit and receive data from a relatively small satellite dish on Earth and communicate with an orbiting geostationary satellite 22,300 miles above Earth's equator. The orbiting satellite transmits (and receives) its information to a location on Earth called the Network Operations Center or NOC (pronounced "knock"). The NOC itself is connected to the Internet (or private network), so all communication made from a satellite dish to the orbiting satellite will flow through the NOC before it reached the Internet.

Satellite Internet is a wireless connection that involves 3 satellite dishes; one at the Internet service providers (ISP or NOC) hub, one in space and one attached to your property. In addition to the satellite dish you also need a modem and cables running to and from the dish to your modem. Once you have everything connected, the ISP will send the Internet signal to the dish in space which then relays it to you. Every time you make a request (new page, download, send an email, etc) it goes to the dish in space and then to the (ISP’s) hub. The completed request is then sent back through space, to your dish and then to your computer.

Weather conditions affect satellite Internet more than they do fixed wireless. The signal has to travel through the entire atmosphere and back. That means a storm can cause problems. A base station used for fixed wireless Internet is about as tall as an average cell phone tower. It’s usually located within 10 miles of your house, so the clouds above it and the storm that’s miles away won’t interfere with the signal it’s transmitting. In addition. Because the satellite is positioned much farther from the receiver on your house than the wireless base station, satellite Internet suffers from high latency. This can make even a high-speed connection sluggish and has a big impact on things like online gaming and streaming video.

 

- 5G Internet vs Satellite Internet for Rural Customers

Satellite Internet needs to transmit its signal into space before it gets to your device, which isn't known for its speed - but it works everywhere. 5G home internet is also wireless and it's extremely fast—but it's too soon to tell if it'll become the rural solution many are hoping for. 

Even though 5G home Internet is wireless, that doesn't mean that it'll become the end all be all solution for rural customers because cities will still need to figure out how to install the small cell towers (which are connected to a wired source). 

5G Internet, like satellite, is wireless - but unlike satellite - it's not completely wireless. Here's the deal: from the cell tower to your home router and WiFi modem, 5G Internet is wireless. However, the cell towers themselves need to be hooked up to a fiber Internet source. Not only that, but since 5G cell towers don't commonly have a long range, cities and towns will need to install many of these cell towers to service the whole area. 

The small cell towers used by Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint have a very short range - but this is where T-Mobile's choice to adopt a different wave-type for their technology might shine. It's not as fast as the other guys, but its range is much larger. But until T-Mobile's 5G home Internet comes out in the coming years, we won't really know if it'll truly slice through the digital divide as we're hoping it might. 

 

- 5G Satellite Networks Development

The 3GPP 5G RAN architecture - specified in Release 15 and known as NG-RAN - introduces new terminology, interfaces and functional modules. The NG-RAN consists of a set of radio base stations (known as gNBs) connected to the 5G core network (5GC) and to each other.

5G satellite networks are understood to mean networks in which the NG-RAN radio access network is constructed using a satellite network technology. The NG-RAN represents the newly defined radio access network for 5G. NG-RAN provides both NR and LTE radio access.

In the future, 5G networks will represent the global telecommunication infrastructure of the digital economy, which should cover the whole world including inaccessible areas not covered by 5G terrestrial networks. Given this, the satellite segment of 5G networks becomes one of the pressing issues of development and standardization at the second stage of 5G networks development in the period 2020–2025. 

The requirements for 5G satellite network will be determined primarily by combination of key services supported by 5G networks, which are combined by three basic business models of 5G terrestrial networks: enhanced Mobile Broadband Access (eMBB), Massive Internet of Things connections (mIoT), and Ultra-reliable low-latency communication (uRLLC). 3GPP as leading international standards body has identified several use cases and scenarios of 5G satellite networks development. 

 

 

[More to come ...]



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