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Pending 6GHz spectrum availability, faster speeds, and private wireless access use drive FWA forward.

Fixed wireless access has lived in the shadow of fiber in the nationwide broadband breakout. But now, higher speed, expanded use cases, and the anticipated availability of 6GHz spectrum have the option of commanding a broader role, which includes corporate networking.

"Fixed Wireless Access has proven that it can provide connectivity both in rural and underserved markets while also competing head-to-head with fixed broadband technologies in urban and suburban markets," said Jeff Heynen, Vice President and analyst with the Dell’Oro Group . “Beyond residential connectivity, enterprises are relying more heavily on FWA-enabled routers and gateways to connect branch offices, vehicles, and kiosks as part of their own private wireless initiatives,” added Heynen.

Beyond residential use

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) has surged in recent years to support both residential and enterprise connectivity due to its ease of deployment along with the more widespread availability of 4G LTE and 5G Sub-6GHz networks, which offer increased throughput and reliability, comparable in many cases to more traditional fixed broadband technologies.

The most important trend, according to one analyst, has been the increase in millimeter wave deployments at Verizon and USCellular. “Both are planning to use mmWave in urban areas where subscribers are close to small cells. mmWave can deliver speeds beyond 1Gbps and is averaging speeds of anywhere from 300-1.5Gbps, depending on the distance to the small cell,'" explained Heynen.

T-Mobile is also discussing using mmWave to complement its mid-band spectrum-based FWA offerings. "That market and technology are going to see interesting developments and use cases throughout the year and into next year," predicted Heynen.

When used for 5G signals, millimeter waves (mmWaves) are produced using low-power small cells. These small cells are arranged as a network in clusters to provide coverage in an area. This band of frequencies provides greater bandwidth, making it ideal for network operators to provide faster service to bandwidth-intensive applications.

6GHz for FWA

Another watershed development in the emergence of FWA would be the opening of spectrum in the 6GHz band for the use of unlicensed FWA. However, before this work-in-progress becomes a reality, companies that must be found to operate advanced frequency control (AFC) systems to guard against interference must complete testing tasks and receive approval from the FCC.

At last check, the agency cleared seven vendors to test their AFCs. They include:

  • Broadcom
  • Comsearch
  • Federated Wireless
  • Qualcomm
  • Sony
  • Wi-Fi Alliance
  • Wireless Broadband Alliance

At least six more entities have received conditional FCC approval.

The North American market remains the most dynamic in terms of deployed FWA technology options, with CBRS and other sub-6GHz options growing alongside 5G NR and 60 GHz options.

5G FWA technology is seen as an accelerator, and its use is expected to represent 45% of the total FWA subscription base by 2029, reaching 118 million at a CAGR of 35%, according to a report from ABI Research.

FWA Benefits and Challenges

The top benefits of FWA are that it can be deployed without cable in the ground or hung on poles and requires only limited permitting. And with access to additional spectrum, it's easier to find space for wireless communications. As a result, FWA is quicker to deploy, cheaper, and more flexible than fiber, especially in mountainous and wooded terrain.

The biggest challenge remaining is that FWA requires a clear line of sight between the point of signal original and the points of the requested termination. A longstanding shortcoming of FWA is its lower than fiber data speeds supported in resulting services. However, the ability to use additional spectrum has some service providers talking speeds of up to 1 Gigabit/sec.

Challenging terrain deployments can be made more accurate and quicker using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), which uses light and sensors to help survey and mapping. The tech creates accurate maps and digital elevation models for geographic information systems for commercial surveying and mapping applications.

A final thought on FWA

The fiber first and foremost focus that came with the BEAD program didn’t seem to leave room in the broadband breakout for other access options. Now, years later, the realities of closing the digital divide and the near-term needs of users have created plenty of room for FWA.

In fact, The FWA equipment spend is expected to exceed $40 billion over the next five years, according to Dell’Oro Group. Spending on 4G and 5G-enabled enterprise routers and gateways is expected to reach $4 billion by 2027.

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SASE can provide secure and efficient access to cloud-based services and resources for users, regardless of their location. Follow this checklist to attain this goal.

Secure access service edge (SASE) provides companies a centralized means to manage, monitor, and optimize their wide-area networks, SASE solutions provide the flexibility to protect corporate assets, remote offices, and home-based and mobile employees, as security threats continue to evolve and rapidly increase.

Introduction to SASE Architecture

SASE is an architecture that provides converged network and security as a service with an array of cloud-based capabilities that can be located where and used when they are needed.

As such, SASE expands the perimeter to include all resources, regardless of their location or device. It provides a single and consistent security policy spanning all network and application assets.

Read more: SASE Architecture: A Checklist for SASE-savvy Businesses

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With partner Neural Magic's software, potential user benefits may include lower latency, higher service levels, and faster response times.

Cloud and content delivery network Akamai Technologies last week teamed with Neural Magic to deploy advanced artificial intelligence (AI) software across its global edge server network.

The duo's efforts could provide businesses with lower latency, higher service levels, and faster response times. Adding the software could enable use cases such as AI inference, immersive retail, and spatial computing.

Long ago, Akamai built a distributed global network comprised of edge servers containing cached content located close to users to cut the time and boost the performance of delivering rich media such as streaming video. Now, the provider is using the same network to provide Neural Magic's AI much closer to the sources of user data.

The company said it intends to “supercharge” its deep learning capabilities by leveraging Neural Magic’s software, which enables AI workloads to be run more efficiently on traditional central processing unit-based servers, as opposed to more advanced hardware powered by graphics processing units (GPUs).

Potential Business Benefits of AI at the Edge

One expert sees several potential benefits to using Akamai’s content delivery network (CDN) business customers with Neural Magic’s AI acceleration software.

“This could potentially lower the cost of service and still meet the requirements for the AI workloads,” said Baron Fung, Senior Research Director at Dell’Oro Group, a global telecom market research and consulting firm. “Lower cost can be achieved because the service provider (Akamai) can use general-purpose servers that uses traditional infrastructure, rather than expensive dedicated AI/GPU servers and infrastructure.”

Potential applications benefits are possible "because these nodes are situated at the network edge, close to where the user or machines are located, faster response time of applications for customers could be realized, especially for workloads that are AI related."

Higher service levels could be attained. “Because of the scalable nature of the solution, new CDN nodes suitable for AI workloads could be scaled quickly in high-demand regions.”

Running AI Workloads Close to Data Sources

In February, Akamai launched its Generalized Edge Compute (GECKO) initiative which focused on embedding cloud computing capabilities in the provider’s massive edge network. The initiative will efficiently support modern applications and workloads, wrote Zacks Investment Research. “These workloads will span a wide range of next generation use cases such as AI inference, immersive retail, and spatial computing.”

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