5G FWA could 'halve the cost' of rural full-fibre rollout

Three and CCS Insight are calling on the government to reconsider its reliance on fibre technology

5G fixed wireless access (FWA) could be installed in rural parts of the UK faster and for half the cost of full-fibre.

That's according to Three and supported by research from CCS Insight, which explores the benefits of installing superfast 5G broadband instead of the government-supported fixed-line technology.

Three and CCS Insight have calculated that FWA could be installed for half the cost of full-fibre and still provide a comparable level of connectivity, and are calling on the government to reconsider its reliance on fibre technology when executing its Gigabit 2025 plan.

According to Three UK’s CTO David Hennessy, “the government is too focused on investing in one type of technology - fixed line”.

“Fixed line, or fibre, is significantly more difficult to roll out than FWA, which only needs a mobile signal to operate. It’s time for a greater consideration of a wider pool of technology, particularly FWA, to help those in rural areas have access to faster internet and ultimately help reduce the digital divide,” he said.

CCS Insight analyst Kester Mann added that “although current broadband networks are sufficient for many of today’s needs, future demand for more data-intensive services will soon start to push their limits”.

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“The government’s ambition to reach at least 85% of UK premises with gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 is an ambitious target. It will necessitate urgent policy reform to remove barriers to network deployment, an acceleration in build-out ambition from UK providers and an open approach to new connectivity solutions through a mix of technologies. 5G fixed wireless access can form a significant part of this,” he said.

According to CCS Insight and Three, FWA could benefit rural areas by limiting the need for building new masts, preventing country roads from being closed due to development, as well as being more environmentally friendly. The installation process is usually much shorter, with Three promising next-day delivery on any FWA order placed by 4pm. According to research from Uswitch, one million Brits who moved in the last year waited eight days on average for their broadband to be connected.

Last year’s research found that the 5G FWA market is expected to grow by 17,000% by 2026, with its growth being accelerated by the pandemic.

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