Fiber and Fixed Wireless: An Attractive Pairing

By Amanda Kowalik   March 27, 2015

Whenever articles like AT&T GigaPower vs. Google Fiber: Why AT&T Will Win the High-Speed Broadband Race are published, we wonder – is fixed wireless the elephant in the room? Or is it not even in the same building?

This article, like many before it on proliferating high-speed broadband access, centers the arms race between AT&T and Google as to who can build the most extensive fiber network. Given reports of Google Fiber’s building delays and AT&T’s growing problems, more fiber alone is not the answer. The solution to economically and efficiently bringing high-speed broadband to where it currently does not exist is the hybrid network. Using a blend of technologies such as Wi-Fi, satellite connectivity, Digital Subscriber line (DSL)and fixed wireless to comprise or extend a fiber network to the home – versus laying fiber to every home and commercial building – makes pure economic sense for network operators, and is much closer to reality.

It’s important to note that we already live in a world of hybrid connectivity: According to the United Nations’ latest Internet Communications Technology statistics, 43.8 households in 100 worldwide have Internet access at home, and 9.8 out of 100 have fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions. This means that the majority of residential Internet users get online via any one of the technologies mentioned above.

In particular, fixed wireless enables operators to get the most out of their fiber backbones, and we have ample evidence of this with installations in Canada, Italy and Hungary. As those customers have discovered, fixed wireless is just as reliable as wireline (as we also noted in our recent top five fixed wireless myths blog) and is capable of offering symmetric and asymmetric broadband services. Most of broadband’s benefits are delivered with a 10-20 Mbps connection. Another distinct advantage it has over fiber specifically is its affordability for network operators.

Installing a wireline network requires tremendous overhead, as outlined in this diagram provided to us by a well-known global provider of video systems, Industrial Video and Control (IVC) for a major construction site in the southeastern United States:

The bulk of the cost to install wireline networks is attributed to trenching, the costly and disruptive practice of digging up streets and sidewalks to lay fiber underground. Google Fiber’s mission is noble and laudable. But building a new fiber network requires a significant amount of invested time and energy to bring to fruition. In the three years since the Kansas City endeavor began, countless fixed wireless networks could have been installed for a fraction of the time and money. Here is a projection for a fixed wireless broadband installation from the same IVC installation outlined above:

This savings of 92 percent over a wireline deployment for a network with the exact same capabilities speaks for itself. If you have to trench anywhere, consider the alternatives. Creative hybrid solutions can ease the complexities of bringing high-quality, fast Internet connectivity to a community that fiber simply isn’t delivering.

For more on the economics of fixed wireless, download our white paper.