LTE (Long Term Evolution), typically marketed as 4G LTE, has become synonymous with “high speed” mobile access — it is the truly unfortunate that see 3G or even worse 1x on mobile phone displays.  Verizon recently tantalizingly announced the launch of XLTE” – the next generation breakthrough in mobile broadband access.  In reality it is not that magical: Verizon is simply using more spectrum to deliver higher data rates.

This evolution, and those before it, was brought about by consumers’ increasing reliance on their mobile devices as a means to get online anytime and anywhere.  Not so long ago, consumers’ satisfaction with their service providers was about voice quality and network coverage.  Now, it is how fast the page loads, how quick the download is, and the timeliness of email delivery.  What’s the name to the left of that dreaded 1x to do?

In terms of “making it work” in the eyes of the consumer, it has become abundantly clear that no single solution will satisfy the ever-growing demand for wireless access.  Hotspot 2.0 and the acceleration of carrier off-load solutions over the past couple of years is evidence of that.  Conversely, the trend in cable operators, most notably Comcast in the United States, to build out Wi-Fi access networks for the constituency, is an acknowledgment that the consumer expects broadband where they are; wherever that might be. 

Another emerging trend, enabled in part by LTE and the proliferation of Wi-Fi access, is “cord cutting” – consumers relying exclusively on their mobile operator to provide broadband access.  This creates a bit a quandary for a mobile operator as fixed broadband users typically consume data at a higher rate for an extended period of time in comparison to mobile users.  Consider how many devices and individuals are connected to your home Wi-Fi access point on a typical evening!  Spectrum typically supporting mobile data networks is expensive and the ROI is best achieved by serving high ARPU (average revenue per user) mobile users.  Beyond spectrum utilization is the challenge of site density, and the associated infrastructure costs, that will be necessary for reach and spectrum re-use if there is a significant shift to fixed users of mobile broadband access. Yes, a qualitative financial assessment but one that quickly comes together with hard numbers. 

A tool in the service providers’ toolbox to bridge the needs of fixed and mobile users is Fixed Wireless Broadband (FWBB).  FWBB solutions are considered non-3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) but fit nicely into a 3GPP System Architecture Evolution (SAE) core, including the ability to exercise Enhanced Packet Core services.  It offers the opportunity “off load” high consumption “cord cutters”, off of the mobile LTE network to a lower cost network solution.  By improving the ROI of the customer, FWBB makes the higher cost limited capacity solution available to the targeted high ARPU mobile user. 

Learn more about the hybrid network architecture by reading our white paper “Service enablement and growth using purpose-built non-3GPP fixed wireless broadband access as an alternative to Fixed LTE.”  

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