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The wireless alternative

Broadband connectivity is more important than ever, and mmWave fixed wireless access (FWA) 5G technologies will play a crucial part in leveraging the economic potential inherent in this.

Johannesburg, 23 Mar 2021
Read time 4min 10sec
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Justin Colyn, sales and marketing director, Comsol Networks.
Justin Colyn, sales and marketing director, Comsol Networks.

There can be little doubt that the increasing roll-out of fibre has benefited a lot of people, but this does not mean it has benefited those that need it most. The nature of these roll-outs has been to target the large metros and the high LSM regions, which has essentially led to the ‘haves’ being in a position where they have even more, while the ‘have nots’ find the digital divide has merely increased.

This is the exact opposite of the aim behind delivering greater broadband connectivity, suggests Justin Colyn, sales and marketing director at Comsol Networks. He adds, mobile broadband penetration, in the form of 3G, 4G and LTE, has by far the largest coverage and most subscribers, but at a premium and with services that are often inconsistent.

“While there is a place for all these different solutions, certain technologies are better depending on whether you are, for example, connecting a high-density urban area or a rural region – requiring a mobile or fixed solution. Bearing in mind that the cost of laying fibre is around 30% higher than it is to deploy a fixed wireless access (FWA) 5G network, this means that on a megabyte for megabyte comparison, 5G will be cheaper,” he says.

“Of course, fibre is very effective in high density areas and remains critical for 5G base stations’ last mile connectivity and in building the backbone on which 5G networks run. However, its cost to deploy is becoming prohibitive in respect of the smaller towns and more remote, less affluent market segments still available and needing good broadband connectivity.”

Despite this, broadband is more important than ever, with COVID-19 and the rise in online collaboration having accelerated the demand for connectivity underpinned by the need for value and quality. Colyn says he thinks that, thanks to this, SA is several years ahead of where it would otherwise have been.

“You could say we are building back better and accelerating our move to the cloud, as we embrace remote working. This is going to be the new normal and the resilience demonstrated by citizens and businesses in SA, in rapidly pivoting and adapting to the changes driven by the pandemic, is similar to the resilience and agility offered by fixed wireless access broadband.

“The key to success in this space as we move forward will be to provide access to value for money services, built on the promise of a high quality of service for both businesses and consumers. This is the only way to get ahead in an extremely competitive landscape.”

He notes that there are other benefits to FWA broadband offering, including the faster speed to market and the ease with which such a solution can be rolled out. In addition, he says, the simple fact that 5G networks are more cost-effective, implies that users will receive an equivalent service to fibre broadband and a far superior service to traditional DSL services, but at a better price.

“Bearing in mind the fact that greater broadband penetration is linked to an increase in GDP, it is important to utilise every form of broadband connectivity available to drive penetration in the market.

“This is what we need increasingly today, in order to ensure we are in a position to be prosperous as a nation. Broadband, delivered with the right balance of value versus quality, is critical to driving this approach forward,” states Colyn.

In particular, he continues, 5G FWA will play a key role here, as it is expected to account for about 22% of the market by 2025. Between consumer uptake and a growing base of FWA connections in places like schools, libraries and community centres, he says there will be a strong foundation for working to alleviate social and economic challenges.

“If an increase of approximately 10% in fixed broadband connections yields a concomitant GDP increase of 1.9%, the underlying message is that broadband will be the facilitator of increased economic activity, GDP growth, job creation and, ultimately, the South Africa all of us want.

“Moreover, the time has never been more right for mmWave fixed wireless access 5G broadband adoption: COVID-19 has proven the necessity of moving to the cloud, something that is underpinned by a successful broadband strategy. Between the cloud uptake and the rising popularity of SD-WAN, the demand for cost-effective and high-quality broadband connections is growing all the time – and fibre and fixed wireless access broadband are critical to increasing this acceleration even more,” he concludes.

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