As 5G networks come online, more executives are going to evaluate 5G fixed wireless, both in from a mobile service provider and a fixed network service provider perspective. United States Cellular, for example, already offers a fixed wireless service using 4G.
“We have a 4G fixed wireless product out there today that is really aimed at the more rural areas where you don’t have cable or any other competitive product,” says Kenneth Meyers, United States Cellular CEO.
That might not be the case for 5G fixed wireless, which is viewed as a product suitable for consumers in densely populated areas, compared to 4G, which is aimed at rural users.
“For a 5G, that’s one of the use cases we’re looking at, and it would be something we’d look at in much more densely populated areas than the current one,” says Meyers. “That’s under the theory that it’s more of a millimeter wave product in terms of getting enough speed, you need more spectrum.”
The issue is simply capacity: 4G bandwidth is not capacious enough to be a full substitute for fixed network usage. “The average usage per month per user (on the fixed network) in many of our markets is typically 10 times that of wireless and that demand curve keeps increasing,” says Vicki Villacrez, CFO for TDS Telecommunications Corporation, which owns US Cellular. The lightest users (bottom two deciles in terms of usage) might be the most-logical candidates for a fixed wireless solution, she says.