NEW ORLEANS, May 11, 2023 – Fifth generation mobile networks has enabled fixed wireless technology to be deployed in areas where it wouldn’t have been accepted otherwise, said Jay Brown, CEO of communications infrastructure company Crown Castle at a Connect (X) forum here on Wednesday.
Fixed wireless will never be a true replacement for a wired network, said Brown, but providers have been successful thus far because running 5G on a fixed wireless network brings speeds up to par with wired connections. “The speeds you get on a fixed wireless network [with 5G] are matching that of the wired solution,” he said.
We’ve seen that if given a choice, consumers will choose wireless over a wired connection, Brown continued, speaking at the Wireless Infrastructure Association trade show. Providers have noted an increase in demand for small cell towers that transmit wireless over a high frequency in a small geographic area, he claimed.
For many communities, managing aesthetic is singularly important and this desire fuels the deployment of small cells, he said.
Due to the faster speeds that 5G enables, providers are seeing deployment in areas that would not have accepted it otherwise due to its lower speeds, added Steve Vondran of American Tower, provider of wireless communications infrastructure..
This allows providers to enter previously untapped networks and connect people across rough terrain and in rural areas, he said.
“Fixed wireless is driving incremental returns but this is just the first application [of 5G],” said Brown. Our use cases haven’t evolved to utilize the full capacity of 5G, agreed Vondran.
However, for wireless providers, spectrum allocations are a continuous concern. The Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum auction authority which allows it to auction spectrum for private use expired in March.
Vondran suggested that the government will need to work with the Department of Defense which holds a significant amount of spectrum to make more available privately.
“If the demand drivers are as predicted, we will need more spectrum made available,” said Jeff Stoops, CEO of SBA Communications.
Until more spectrum is released, industry leaders expect that spectrum shortages will lead to great densification of the networks, the process of increasing small cell towers in an area to address growing demand.
Leaders of the FCC urged lawmakers in a letter dated in April to extend the agency’s spectrum authority amid demands for more across the industry.