5G FWA could serve nearly half of rural households, CTIA report finds

Amid anticipation for the freshly passed $65 billion in funding for broadband expansion, a new report from CTIA estimates that 5G Fixed Wireless Access broadband could serve nearly half of rural households in the U.S.

According to the report, Accenture reckons that 43% of rural households, or about 8.4 million households, could be served by 5G FWA technology. The report argues that 5G FWA “can more than meet … connectivity demands in terms of speeds and bandwidth,” and that 5G advances mean that the technology is also “relatively future-proof” while offering faster and more cost-efficient deployment than traditional fiber-to-the-home approaches.

“With the recent historic infrastructure investment of $65 billion to close the digital divide, it is key to acknowledge that 5G FWA is a future-proof technology that has the potential to offer better economics and speed of deployment,” the report offered. “The advancements in 5G fundamentally enhance the viability of wireless as a home broadband solution.”

The report claims that a 5G FWA connection “can potentially deliver sustained download speeds, through the air, of 1 Gbps up to four miles” from the base station, referencing testing earlier this yer conducted by US Cellular. It also offers the possibility that 5G FWA will have so much more capacity than 4G systems that it will not only allow increasingly higher upload and download speeds but “potentially symmetrical” ones.

In addition, the report points out, all three national carriers are investing in FWA strategies. T-Mobile US, in particular, made the priority of extending not only mobile but home broadband service part of its arguments in favor of its merger with Sprint and its subsequent strategy for expansion.

While the Biden administration initially emphasized the role of fiber in connecting Americans, the bill that eventually passed also made allowances for FWA to be used to provide broadband access, and inevitably, the pros and cons of each technology will come under scrutiny as projects get funded. In addition to the CTIA report, the Fiber Broadband Association put out a new report this week that said customers preferred reliability over speed and argued that fiber is “the superior broadband technology.”

The full report is available from CTIA here.

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