Execs: FWA Key for European Broadband Internet

According to panelists at an online event, “Unlocking the Potential of Fixed Wireless Access in Europe – Challenges, Opportunities and Funding Mechanisms”, the ultra-fast speeds and low latency now offered by 5G, access fixed wireless (FWA) are becoming the key to the technology mix providing a solution and providing high-speed Internet, especially where the deployment of fiber is not possible.

“The combination of FWA with 5G technology has the potential to contribute significantly to the achievement of European connectivity targets set for the end of the decade,” said Franco Accordino, Head of Unit, Investment in High-Speed ​​Networks. capacity, European Commission. “FWA was one of the technologies chosen to support the objectives of the RRF (Recovery and Resilience Facility). This is an important signal for us because it resonates with what we think of FWA. If properly designed and deployed, it can certainly support the gigabit goals we have set for ourselves,” he added.

Organized by Forum Europe, the webinar brought together policymakers, industry and experts from across Europe to discuss the obstacles that still hinder the full deployment of fixed wireless access (FWA) in Europe. “Leveraging its rapid time to market and cost-effectiveness advantages, FWA is essential to meet EC’s broadband ambitions, particularly in more difficult-to-reach rural areas, to to avoid leaving citizens behind,” said Julien Grivolas, president of the GSA 4G – 5G FWA forum.

Konstantinos Masselos, Chairman of the Hellenic Telecommunications and Postal Commission (EETT) and incoming 2023 Chairman of BEREC, agreed that Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), in the context of 5G, “appears as a very interesting alternative to the FTTH/FTTP fiber offer”. such as speeds, faster deployment and a more attractive investment and risk profile.

The discussion focused on how public funding initiatives can be leveraged to support investments in wireless infrastructure as part of national broadband plans that are being developed in Member States, in particular now with the unprecedented levels of public funding available to boost connectivity through the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and other instruments. “State aid investments in 5G FWA could also help achieve the EC’s 5G MBB universal coverage targets and support the EC’s green and digitization agenda,” Grivolas added.

Harald Gruber, Head of Digital Infrastructure Division, European Investment Bank, suggested that FWA is a useful technology solution to mitigate market failure due to insufficient investment in Very High Capacity Networks (VHCN) in areas. less densely populated EU. He pointed out that while the ambition of the EU is to give all its inhabitants equal opportunities, people living in certain rural areas are being left behind due to the lack of adequate digital connectivity, essential to reap the benefits of the digitization of economic sectors, such as agriculture, tourism and manufacturing. “The EIB supports FWA because its economy is particularly well suited to this type of sparsely populated environment and, thanks to the low concentration of traffic in these areas, FWA could be a viable VHCN solution in terms of capacity and quality”, he added.

Delegates discussed the potential contribution of French West Africa to short- and long-term EU connectivity goals. “While FTTH and 5G are the backbone of Europe’s digital infrastructure, a mix of technologies will be needed to meet the ambitious connectivity goals of the European Digital Decade,” said Maarit Palovirta, Director Head of Regulatory Affairs at ETNO. “5G-enabled Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) should have the capability to deliver gigabit speeds for specific use cases,” she noted.

In countries like Norway, Bulgaria and Greece, the average speed of the mobile network has, for the first time in history, exceeded that of the fixed network. In the vast swaths of Northern Europe, Norway is leveraging FWA capabilities: “Nkom sees FWA as a way to provide high-speed internet access to the whole country, especially where fiber roll-out n is not possible. This will greatly increase opportunities for running businesses where people choose to live and will give everyone an equal digital opportunity,” said Bent André Støyva, Section Head for Spectrum Planning, Norwegian Communications Authority (NKOM) .

Industry representatives have highlighted how FWA is a better, safer and even greener choice for rural areas. “Now that we are in the digital decade, 5G and IoT NB are paving the way for the digital transformation of our entire society,” said Patrick Robinson, Vice President – Europe, ATEL. “It will make our lives better, safer and even greener – now with 5G in rural areas and the change in work culture after the pandemic, FWA gives us a choice. Work in the city or work in the countryside. In this post-pandemic era, we can choose where we want to work”.

Katri Perälä, Director of BB Business, DNA, commented on her company’s high customer satisfaction rate: “The data usage of a 5G FWA customer is more than four times that of a broadband user. domestic 4G and customer satisfaction is higher than any other broadband. Data usage continues to grow,” she said, adding that quality is a key factor. “We wanted to ensure that the quality of our FWA solution was so excellent that it was a real alternative to fibre. FWA has given us new opportunities to provide high-quality broadband connections in areas where broadband connections were previously unavailable,” she added.