FWA, The Promise of Broadband Everywhere Lessons Learned & Best Practices (2023)

By Ahmed Jafri, Rogers Communications Inc.; Osama Bazan, Rogers Communications Inc.; Rizwan Butt, Rogers Communications Inc.; Mahmoud ElMeligui, Rogers Communications Inc.; Carlos Moco, Rogers Communications Inc.

In today's digital age, access to high-speed internet has become critical for individuals, businesses, and communities to thrive and participate fully in the modern economy. However, despite significant technological progress and infrastructure development, the digital divide persists, leaving a considerable number of households underserved or unserved by broadband connectivity. This paper explores the potential of Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) as a solution on 4G/5G networks to bridge this divide, focusing on the Canadian context while acknowledging the global nature of the issue. Canada, a developed country with an estimated population of 16.2 million households, faces challenges in providing universal broadband access. According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), approximately 91.4% of households have access to broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. However, this leaves around 1.4 million homes as underserved or unserved, with rural communities being particularly affected, where only 62% have access to these reasonable broadband speeds. This persistent digital divide highlights the multifaceted challenges associated with socioeconomic, political, and geographic factors that shape broadband accessibility. Fixed Wireless Access is not a novel concept, having existed in various technological forms where the last mile connection provided to users is wireless. However, as the demand for data consumption on broadband connections continues to increase, delivering a satisfactory customer experience over wireless networks has become increasingly challenging. The convergence of mobile and fixed wireless broadband services over 4G networks began with the expansion of 4G cellular networks. But bridging the digital divide requires ensuring FWA can deliver an experience comparable to fixed broadband. While 4G based FWA has proven to be promising, it has fallen short particularly in terms of being able to provide comparable throughput speeds and adequate capacity. However, 5G networks have emerged as a more robust and appropriate solution for applications like FWA while catering to the growing needs of mobile traffic. This is mainly due to the advanced features and capabilities 5G brings such as access to higher bandwidths and frequency spectrum, more efficient radio interface, enhanced radio resource management, higher order Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO), Beamforming, Dual Connectivity and Carrier Aggregation (CA) for peak performance and coverage extension, higher order modulation, and more capable customer premises equipment (CPE). It is essential to recognize that FWA users typically consume significantly more data compared to mobile users, often by a factor of 40 to 50 times. Additionally, seasonal traffic variations introduce complexities that necessitates careful capacity planning and resource management. This requires operators offering FWA services over their 4G/5G network to not only rely on the enhanced features now available with 5G, but also to adopt processes and best practices that will protect their network, improve customer experience, provide sustainability, and ensure success. This technical paper aims to cover the features, processes and best practices utilized by Rogers to accommodate FWA as an application over its 4G/5G Mobile Broadband (MBB) network.

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