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In the 5G Era, at Least 20 Million U.S. Homes Will Rely on Wireless for Broadband

Dave Burstein

There now can be no doubt that fixed wireless, mostly 5G, will be a viable business in the right locations. Today's wireless has enormous capacity, enough to supply the broadband needs of a significant population. It's better than most DSL and a workable alternative to cable in many locations. Traffic demand is falling, with Cisco predicting the U.S. will fall to 31% growth in 2021.

John Legere of T-Mobile committed to 9.5 million in-home broadband subs by 2024 to get FCC approval of the Sprint takeover. Brett Feldman of Goldman Sachs estimated Verizon would have 8 million by 2023. AT&T;CEO says they expect a fixed market to grow in a few years. Wireless ISPs already have over a million. Starry and others are growing. In five years, at least a fifth of the 120 million U.S. homes will be connected wirelessly.

Three in the UK and Sunrise in Switzerland are also promoting fixed. Deutsche Telekom and many others are actively selling fixed in rural areas, replacing or supplementing DSL.

When a carrier has a good landline offering, fixed will be a small niche. Orange in France and Spain will have fiber to most of the country, leaving few areas where fixed wireless makes sense. Similarly, a non-incumbent with a good deal on unbundling rarely will look to sell wireless to the home.

Since 2016 or before, wireless technology has been improving at a faster rate than traffic demand. Carrier aggregation easily doubles the spectrum a telco can use. Massive MIMO raises the capacity of the right spectrum by three to five times. 256 QAM is worth another 30%, 5G NR, SON, and a dozen other technologies also make a difference. The lobbyists think its never enough, but most countries are or soon will add 100s of MHz of new spectrum. Depending on the starting point and how you measure, wireless capacity is going up 10 to 25 times within the current capex budget.

The result: telcos can't sell all they can deliver in most of their territory and need new products.

By Dave Burstein, Editor, DSL Prime – Dave Burstein has edited DSL Prime and written about broadband and Internet TV for a decade. Visit Page
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