In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile

Wireless substitution remains a controversial prospect, as some argue that  5G is a substitute for the National Broadband Network, while others doubt that will happen, as fixed network access “is always better” than mobile.

But it is likely dangerous to make predictions based on past expectations. It is not at all clear to some observers that fixed network internet access speeds always and everywhere, to say nothing of speeds in many markets, will “always be better than mobile.”

In fact, some already say 5G will be faster than copper-based networks supporting the Australian National Broadband Network. If that proves true, then assuming 5G tariffs are set competitively, the mobile 5G network could well be faster than all but fiber to home networks.

And if history provides any guide, it is that, for some current use cases, mobile substitution for internet access already is a reality. Once 5G launches, the amount of substitution could skyrocket.

“I truly believe that 5G will be enough bandwidth for the average consumer, and you won’t need a fixed line broadband service,” said Boost Mobile CEO Peter Adderton . “You talk to some of the carriers in the U.S., they agree with that.”

“You’ll still need fibre to run offices and that kind of thing, but for the next generation, they’re going to be entirely happy on 5G,” Akkerton argues.

Millimeter wave and small cells are the enablers. In fact, millimeter wave use to support mobile operations is the obvious rebuttal to the argument that mobile can replace fixed line.

Simply put, millimeter wave, used in small cells,  increases capacity so much that mobile operators actually can entertain retail tariffs competitive with fixed line alternatives.

At the same time, millimeter wave and small cells allows access speeds to climb easily within the range of fixed network alternatives (hundreds of megabits per second up to perhaps gigabits per second, eventually).

But many 5G observers also suggest that speed will not be the decisive change, where it comes to use cases. In fact, that might be a change that comes from 5G ultra-low latency, which might will be the killer feature for 5G, compared to other access networks.  

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