Serving the Underserved by Using 5G FWA

Why expanding broadband reach is good for everyone

Wireless image and other smaller internet images surrounding it.

According to a recent Forbes report, approximately 42 million Americans have no access to broadband. Beyond an inability to play online video games and watch streaming entertainment, people living in underserved and unserved areas that lack high-speed internet access are hampered in a number of very critical ways. Without fast broadband, customers may not be able to secure jobs that involve working from home and the connectivity that entails, take advantage of online healthcare services and devices, partake in educational programs, grow a small business, conduct online shopping, and so forth.

In the Forbes article, Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit public interest group, explained how people’s lives and livelihoods are potentially impacted when broadband access is unavailable. “You can’t run a garage and repair a car without broadband,” he said. “You can’t apply for a job or do a Zoom interview or telehealth call. People with pacemakers or other medical devices can’t connect to the internet and monitor their health in real time. This is a problem that goes beyond not having a luxury.”

As evidenced during the pandemic, lack of broadband access has real health implications. With many people avoiding medical facilities out of fear of exposure, the explosive rise in the use of telehealth proved key to providing much-needed healthcare services. For those without sufficient connectivity, remote care was simply unavailable, and for the underserved, it remains so to this day.

Both the government and the industry have made it their mission to increase access to the under- and unserved in this nation. This makes good sense for all parties involved because everyone benefits from greater broadband connectivity.

5G Fixed Wireless Access Offers an Important Tool for Expanding Broadband

The deployment of 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) technology offers an important addition to cable operators’ set of tools for expanding broadband access to underserved communities. FWA provides a cost-effective means of expanding broadband into areas without the high cost of investment into infrastructure, such as laying new fiber-optic cable.

Although 5G FWA holds promise in reaching underserved communities, it also has some drawbacks, however. Wireless access points can be subject to interference and reach more limited distances, making it necessary to place them closer together than previous wireless technologies (2G/3G/4G). And because 5G wavelengths can’t penetrate walls, FWA units need line-of-sight connectivity to each other or the tower. 

Underserved Communities Deserve Equal Quality

It’s true that many unserved and underserved communities may be on the lower end of the economic spectrum, but for cable operators, delivering the highest-quality service should remain the goal from a business standpoint. In a world where subscriber bases are nearly saturated, every untapped customer matters, which is why delivering the best service to all subscribers is paramount.

The trickle-down impact of expanding broadband access to these underserved communities affects the broader marketplace. With faster internet, these new subscribers have better access to ecommerce and streaming entertainment services, for example. This in turn creates increased revenue opportunities for those providers, making the cable operator’s network more valuable. In this case, a rising tide truly lifts all boats.

Ensuring Quality Service Requires Extensive Visibility into Complex Networks

When cable operators use 5G FWA, it typically is added to a mix that includes traditional coax, fiber, hybrid coax fiber, Wi-Fi, and fiber to the home/fiber to the x (FTTH/FTTX).

Another option involves carrier aggregation, in which multiple 5G radio channels are joined together to provide greater bandwidth/throughput and equalize uplink and downlink speeds. Providers can use carrier aggregation, partnering with others to provide a lower-cost solution.

However, all of these options leave providers dealing with highly complex networks. Network engineering and operations teams require extensive visibility to be able to pinpoint outages and disruptions in order to quickly resolve issues and ensure the highest quality and security of service for customers.

To assure the quality of services, such as voice, video, and data, operators need effective monitoring of all connections and services and the ability to facilitate analytics and security of multidomain, multigeneration, and multitechnology networks. To effectively manage these complex networks and deliver excellent service for subscribers, network engineering and operations teams must be able to turn visibility into actionable intelligence. This is essential to enabling operations, network planning, business analytics, and security functions.

5G FWA Supports a Win/Win Scenario for Serving Underserved Communities

Fortunately, achieving this level of visibility is possible. NETSCOUT’s industry-leading carrier service assurance solution offers the extensive network visibility required to monitor traffic levels and analyze applications. Armed with insights gained via effective network monitoring and analysis, cable operators can better manage the complexity of networks that include 5G FWA. This makes it possible to ensure the security, performance, and quality of service in unserved and underserved communities.

Learn more about NETSCOUT’s commitment to assuring and securing network services for all.