Fixed Wireless Access (FWA): An introduction

As the demand for superfast broadband continues to grow, the pressure’s on to find more efficient and effective ways to keep consumers and businesses connected. Could Fixed Wireless Access be the answer?

We are on the verge of the next generation in wireless connectivity. Even more disruptive than its
predecessors, 5G promises to bring with it a host of world-changing benefits: blistering speeds, incredible efficiency and, overall, unprecedented capabilities.

Consumers will of course be excited by the prospect of downloading 4K content to their phones in seconds, but 5G isn’t just about mobile; much of its potential lies in Fixed Wireless Access.

What is Fixed Wireless Access?

Internet connectivity is usually delivered to homes and businesses through fixed lines, physically connected through infrastructure on the street to each individual building. At present, this is the most effective method to guarantee stability and performance for users, but the requirement to upgrade it to achieve next generation speeds raises challenges around planning and road works consent, and as a result can lead to disruptions in everyday life.

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) - sometimes known as Fixed Wireless Broadband - is an alternative means of providing internet connectivity that uses wireless network technology rather than fixed lines. An access unit is attached to street furniture - like a lamppost - which then wirelessly connects to a receiver placed inside a home or business property; the receiver then feeds a router (often integrated into the same form factor) which provides WiFi signal into the building, enabling users to connect their numerous everyday devices.

Why does 5G matter for FWA?

Fixed Wireless Access is not a new concept, but it has always had weaknesses when compared with its fixed-line counterpart. Current mobile technologies (the 3G and 4G connectivity most of us already use) can’t offer the download speeds or latency levels needed by modern users, so it’s only been implemented in the few scenarios where traditional fixed solutions aren’t feasible.

5G is poised to change that, to the benefit of people and organisations across the UK and beyond.

The next generation of FWA will use innovative 5G technologies to deliver throughput of 1Gbps or more, along with latency as low as 1ms – both considerable enhancements not only to existing wireless standards but also current fixed technologies. As a result of these improvements, 5G will deliver robust, reliable and cost-efficient FWA solutions on a massive scale for the first time.

What impact will 5G FWA have on the UK?

This resolution in FWA is likely to impact broadband delivery for a lot of internet users.

Most notably, it will give consumers and businesses access to faster connectivity than is currently available through copper and coaxial infrastructure both now and in the future. And, given its simple set up, the speed consumers and businesses will require can be delivered without the costs and complexity, such as digging up roads, which Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) requires. As a result, this technology has a key role to play across large parts of the UK, notably urban and suburban locations.

With the demand for data rates increasing, access to speeds considerably greater than those available today will help to enhance the connected experience for consumers and boost productivity for businesses across the country.

As a result we see the development of 5G FWA as both exciting and also critical in achieving a transformation of the UK’s broadband infrastructure.

Experience Arqiva and Samsung’s 5G FWA 360° demo