5G drives FWA resurgence, but not all FWA is equal

Johannesburg, 11 Jul 2024
Mauritz Lewies, Chief Technical Officer, Comsol.
Mauritz Lewies, Chief Technical Officer, Comsol.

Global fixed wireless access (FWA) uptake is growing, driven in part by 5G and partly due to the ‘blinkers coming off’ enterprise decision-makers around the true connectivity requirements of enterprises.

So says Mauritz Lewies, Chief Technical Officer at Comsol, who notes that the pendulum has swung from FWA to fibre and back again: “Many customers and service providers are moving back into the FWA space, as 5G FWA picks up and enterprises start to prioritise the availability of the service, instead of focusing on the medium and the speed of the service.

“As of this year, we see demand for FWA picking up in South Africa, also driven by the speed of FWA deployment and the need for enterprises to have a dual medium strategy,” he says.

“But one FWA doesn’t equal another,” he says. “The quality of the service is a crucial consideration, particularly for enterprises.”

There are significant differences between licensed FWA built for enterprise, which is a fibre equivalent, and unlicensed FWA, which is a best effort service subject to noise, packet loss and jitter, Comsol says. However, unlicensed FWA can play an important role in serving rural areas.

Lewies says licensed FWA for enterprises uses dedicated spectrum, which means the service is not contended and can offer SLA-based connectivity and performance. Spectrum allocations play an important role in the service that can be offered. As South Africa’s only mmWave 28GHz MEF 2.0 compliant wireless national wholesale open access network (WOAN), Comsol owns the largest tranche of contiguous 28GHz spectrum in South Africa and has moved to take the lead in the local 5G private networks space, with 60MHz of the 3.7GHz spectrum.

He says a challenge for MNOs making a play in the FWA space is a ‘tug of war’ within these organisations for spectrum allocation: “It’s often a case of the business divisions competing with the consumer divisions, which typically means not enough spectrum is allocated to business divisions to deliver proper enterprise services.”

Lewies highlights Comsol’s advantages in the market, including spectrum, and a focus on the enterprise vertical.

“We service specific metro areas where most businesses are based, instead of spreading our infrastructure thin,” he says. “Our power systems and backhaul networks cater for enterprise availability, and we continually invest in additional resources like microwave technology to alleviate the challenge of fibre outages. Every link on our network is carefully planned to meet our stringent availability metrics.

“Capacity planning and availability planning are a top priority to us, plus our support staff take immense pride in the work they do. This is all as important as the spectrum we hold when it comes to delivering quality of service,” he says.