Huawei has gradually built its WTTx fixed wireless access (FWA) business into a key component of its wireless broadband portfolio. At the Huawei Global Analyst Summit earlier this month, the vendor reported significant successes for WTTx and high expectations for its future development. Although still small in scale relative to mobile broadband services, the FWA market is experiencing rapid growth, even outpacing FTTx and copper for new subscription additions in many world markets, according to Huawei's figures.
Even though other large vendors including Nokia and Ericsson provide their own fixed wireless broadband solutions, Huawei is arguably more aggressive in its public backing of FWA. Huawei's work with WiMAX has given it more experience with fixed wireless and it has existing FWA operator relationships it can leverage. Huawei's FWA strategy also differs from that of competitors such as Nokia in that it places WTTx as part of its mobile products line rather than part of its fixed broadband offering.
Huawei already claims a substantial installed base for its WTTx fixed wireless offering, with 200 WTTx commercial networks in service and 50 million households connected as of end-2017. The vendor says 82 operators launched WTTx for home broadband in 2017 alone, and it expects to see a surge in demand over the next two years.
The future growth of FWA will depend on a number of factors, including the ability to deliver efficient and sustainable home broadband services to underserved and unconnected communities more economically than fiber alternatives. Huawei has identified the following four major deployment models where it believes WTTx can provide a fiber-like experience to complement fixed broadband:
As a home fixed broadband service for mobile operators to deliver triple-play services
As a complement to wireline broadband services for converged operators
As a DSL upgrade for wholesale broadband providers
As a 5G-oriented fixed wireless broadband service.
Along with a maturing WTTx ecosystem, a number of factors support the expansion of fixed wireless services. On the network side, spare cell capacity arising from the uneven traffic distribution associated with smartphones can be used more efficiently by operators introducing FWA services. On the equipment side, advances in self-install CPE, along with performance and efficiency gains from the incorporation of multiple receiver and antenna technologies and the use of massive MIMO and 256QAM at the eNodeB, is helping to deliver a high-capacity equivalent to evolved LTE. This will support the evolution toward 5G FWA.
Even so, the business case for FWA is likely to be challenging, particularly in emerging markets where population densities and ARPU are low. Huawei believes governments and regulators can promote the benefits of universal network coverage by providing more practical encouragement and financial stimulus to local mobile operators. It offers a business operation and management platform as part of its WTTx pre-sales service suite, which helps operators evaluate the potential opportunity for a fixed wireless solution based on aspects such as network capacity trends and coverage gaps in existing FTTx and wireline networks.
Ultimately, the success of fixed wireless broadband will depend on the scope it provides for operators to monetize services.
Telecoms Vendor Contract Database: March 2018, SPT002-000077 (April 2018)
"Nokia is well positioned for FWA," SPT002-000030 (December 2017)
Julian Bright, Senior Analyst, Next Generation Infrastructure