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No Question About It: Fixed Wireless Means More Fiber Deployment

Randy Sukow Nov 22, 2019

NRTC Broadband Solutions occasionally reads or hears analysis about the emerging 5G networks and other potential fixed wireless technologies on other bands as if they are low-cost alternatives to building fiber optic networks. The truth is just the opposite. NRTC has consistently advised rural electric telcos and electrics to build backbone fiber optic networks and, in most cases, to reach the last mile through fixed wireless links. It is the most cost-effective way for members to meet current customer expectations and position themselves for future upgrades.

Eric Freesmeier, our retiring president of Broadband Solutions recommends a short item posted earlier this week by Lisa Youngers, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association (pictured). “Even The Wall Street Journal  has it wrong,” Youngers writes in “Some Say, With 5G, No Need for Fiber Networks.’ They Are Wrong.” “I read an article stating that 5G ‘gives developers the ability to scale up projects more easily because there’s no need to build extensive fiber-optic networks to keep data flowing.’ This couldn’t be further from the truth.”

In the article she reminds readers that all 5G networks rely on fiber for “fronthaul, midhaul, backhaul, and the densification needed to network between small cells.” That’s another way of saying, 5G networks move very large amounts of data over short distances at very high speeds, often using high-frequencies of 24 GHz or higher. That is a great breakthrough that will benefit nearly every industry millions of individuals. But it is useless unless there is a very wide pipe to connect that data to the rest of the nation and the world. For 5G and many other fixed wireless solutions, that pipe is fiber optic.

“When I state 5G needs fiber, and lots of it, the experts from all segments of the industry nod their heads in agreement. From SmartCities and 5G experts, to in-building wireless and [distributed antenna] systems providers to building safety experts, traditional [Commercial Mobile Radio Service] carriers to city, state officials and FCC leadership all agree fiber is the underlying critical infrastructure to make this all work,” Youngers said.

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