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mmWave for Fixed Wireless Access: What We've Learned

Report Summary:

Since 2018, the industry has gotten field experience with mmWave-based Fixed Wireless Access. What have we learned? Is it all that its promoters had promised? Or is it all that its detractors warned about? This report looks at lessons from 5G mmWave FWA.

While the US and Japan pioneered the use of mmWave spectrum for 5G, other countries also have commercial deployments and field trials. These, supported by mathematical analysis, simulations, and lab studies, demonstrate the potential as well as the limitations of mmWave spectrum.

Nonetheless, concerns about the implications of the properties of that spectrum persist. It is blocked by obstructions, has relatively short line-of-sight reach, requires cell site densification to achieve coverage, and presently is available in limited geographies. Some critics believe that these are insurmountable obstacles to adoption, to the point of disparaging operators that are deploying it. We disagree.

We find, based on field experience, that mmWave infrastructure has a valuable – but not exclusive -- place in operator networks, including for FWA services, both stand-alone and shared with mobile services.

Table of Contents



1. Executive Summary.

2. Background

2.1 A Bit of History

2.2 Why is mmWave Different

2.2.1 Speed and Capacity

2.2.2 Distance and Obstructions

3. The Controversy

4. Evidence from the Field

4.1 Measurements by Independent Experts

4.2 Verizon has “cracked the code”

4.3 Other 5G Operators Have Made Massive Commitments to mmWave Spectrum

4.4 Non-3GPP mmWave Solutions Are Having Success

4.5 Repeaters, Mesh Networks and IAB Fill Coverage Gaps at Reduced Cost

5. The Business Case

6. Lessons Learned

6.1 mmWave is a Capacity Layer

6.2 mmWave Coverage is Constantly Improving

6.3 Capacity = Speed Under Congestion

6.4 mmWave for FWA is Different from mmWave for Mobility, Even Though It is the Same Network

6.5 mmWave FWA Can Serve in Rural Applications

6.6 Non-Line of Sight Often Feasible

6.7 Outdoor-to-Indoor is Often Possible

6.8 The Technology Continues to Improve

7. Conclusions

7.1 mmWave FWA has Passed the Slope of Disillusionment

7.2 mmWave is Neither a Panacea nor A Failed Science Experiment

7.3 Implications

8. Analyst Contacts


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