Three UK and Ovum reckon 5G FWA is a great idea

Research from Ovum, commissioned by Three UK, has concluded 5G-powered fixed wireless access could replace fixed connections for most UK households.

The report, entitled 5G Wireless Home Broadband: A Credible Alternative to Fixed Broadband, was commissioned to assess the potential of 5G as a substitute to fixed wired broadband in the UK. The bandwidth promised by 5G rivals what is currently available to most UK households via traditional fixed lines and it doesn’t involve digging up the pavements, so what’s not to like?

In fact Ovum anticipates speeds of 80-100 Mbps from FWA, compared to the current fixed-line average of 46 Mbps. Furthermore Ovum reckons 85% of urban punters currently get less than 80 Mbps, so they would receive a boost from 5G FWA.

“Advantages of 5G wireless broadband technology are not just in speed: wireless is more flexible, does not require long-term contracts, is faster and cheaper to deploy and less of a burden for customers – no waiting time, no engineer visits,” said Dario Talmesio of Ovum, who wrote the report. “With low availability of fibre and high cost of deployment, 5G Wireless becomes a viable alternative to fixed-line broadband. While the UK continues its fibre roll-out, this is a quicker and more economical way to satisfy customers’ fast-growing demand for data.”

“5G gives consumers the opportunity to bin their fixed line, enjoy faster speeds and save money,” said Three UK CEO Dave Dyson. “Wireless home broadband means that we can speed up access to super-fast internet services at a lower cost, without installation delays or inflexible contracts.

“The efficient and widespread rollout of superfast broadband across households and businesses is crucial to the growth of our economy. Wireless home broadband de-risks government’s ambitions for a Digital Britain by providing alternatives to a fibre-to-the-home solution.”

Now it should be noted that Three UK doesn’t have a stake in the UK fixed line market and that it’s keen to show something for its £250 million acquisition of UK Broadband, part of the stated reason for which was to offer 5G FWA over the 3.4 GHz spectrum that came with it. Three expects to launch a UK FWA service sometime next year, so it’s fair to say it has a strong commercial interest in bigging up the potential of FWA.

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  1. Avatar John Smith 21/11/2018 @ 4:07 pm

    Or even use 5G to get to the house and use wifi internally, so that consumers have control of internal coverage. It’s a no brainer: both fixed and mobile networks look pretty similar – both are fibre down to the local level before going to wireless (do many consumers use wired ethernet?), so why duplicate networks, and even worse, have to struggle to get fibre from the kerb into the house? Fibre to the lamp-post (FTTL) is perfectly adequate.

  2. Avatar Simon Pike 21/11/2018 @ 6:18 pm

    Any report that the authors feel the need to describe as “independent” is likely to be as independent as any country that includes “Democratic” in its name is likely to embrace democracy. I have not been able to find the Ovum report on either the Ovum or Three websites (another bad sign), so I can only comment on your report.

    One crucial factor that is missing from all reporting (and quite likely from the report itself) is that the capacity of a mobile network is shared between all the users in a cell, whereas the bit rate for FTTH or FTTC is individual to each user. Therefore, the headline bit rates quoted are likely to drop substantially if many of the customers use the FWA broadband for HD streaming video.

    It is unclear what frequency band Three has in mind. It has spectrum at 28GHz that could provide the capacity needed, but the cell size would be small and cells would need to be connected by fibre.

    I look forward to reading the full report, to see if these issues are addressed.

  3. Avatar Simon Pike 21/11/2018 @ 8:55 pm

    Thanks for the link.

    The report does not take long to read, but it would take far longer to comment on in detail. Most interestingly, it does not mention the 4G FWA Relish offering by UK Broadband (a subsidiary of Three) – perhaps it does not support the case that the ‘independent’ report attempts to make.

    A cost comparison between FTTH and FWA is difficult, because much of the cost of FTTH is ‘per connection’, whereas a far higher proportion of the cost of FWA is fixed, to provide radio coverage. The report does not say what subscriber take-up has been assumed, which is necessary to understand the comparison. A comparison of FWA with G.FAST would also be interesting – but, again, perhaps this would not support the conclusions of the report.

    I assume that the ‘b’ in Mbps refers to ‘bits’, whereas the ‘b’ in Gbpm refers to ‘bytes’.

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