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A practical business case for

5G-based fixed wireless access

How 5G enables multi-play services

with fiber-like ultra-broadband

White Paper

The convenience of multi-play services combining fixed voice, broadband, TV and

mobile is a proven way to win over subscribers. In an ideal world, fiber would be
used for every broadband connection. In reality, the cost and time constraints
of deploying fiber-to-the-home means that other technologies can be more
commercially viable to serve ultra-broadband to different groups of users.

5G can be used by service providers to offer high-performance broadband to

residential areas that are impractical or uneconomic to reach with fiber-to-the-
home, especially where household densities are relatively high and take-up rates
are comparatively low. With fiber-to-the-home covering an estimated 20 percent
of the fixed broadband market in Western Europe over the next five years,
there is an opportunity for 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) to play in delivering
broadband services to the remaining 80 percent of the market.

But what makes a successful FWA business case?

The challenge is to find, for each case, a balance between broadband

performance, speed of deployment and costs. This report describes recent Nokia
expert analyses of real scenarios for deploying 5G-based FWA in a large city in
Western Europe. The work reveals the many variables that need to be considered
and the need for highly advanced analysis and network planning, techniques not
normally used for conventional mobile broadband business case analysis.

1. Executive Summary 3
2. 5G can address the fixed broadband access market in mature markets 3
3. Creating a viable business case for 5G-based FWA 4
3.1. In reality, high quality services can be delivered at lower throughput 5
3.2. The nuts and bolts of the 5G solution 6
3.3. Analysis of multiple scenarios reveals viable business cases 7
3.4. One study’s key findings – 1 Gbps peak service, 20 percent take-up rate 7
4. Success critically depends on deploying new planning and analysis expertise 9
4.1. Expertise and experience in 5G FWA planning 10
4.2. Nokia FIRST: A full solution based on commercially available infrastructure 11
5. Conclusion: viable FWA business models 12
6. Abbreviations 12

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1. Executive summary: Advanced insight is needed to
balance cost and performance for successful 5G fixed
wireless access
Most high-quality broadband connectivity to households is delivered by xDSL technologies, with cable
and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) making up the remainder. While FTTH delivers superior performance,
its deployment in cities can be problematic. Installing exterior aerials is sometimes prohibited by city
regulations and involves substantial labor cost and time, increasing the time-to-market. Today, there
is another option in the shape of 5G, with its high throughput, low latency, and cost-effective, flexible
5G is looking to become a strong contender for mobile communications service providers (CSPs) looking to
provide fixed services and win customers with multi-play offers encompassing fixed voice, broadband, TV
and mobile. That said, whether it is the appropriate choice for a project will depend on its circumstances. A
CSP will need to evaluate which technology is best for its market or even for different areas in a market.
5G opens the possibility to use mmWave spectrum to provide the last hop to the home. Despite a
relatively small cell radius at these wavelengths, 5G access points deployed in medium density suburban
and high density urban areas can provide connectivity to multiple nearby households.
To explore the validity of such a solution and compare it with xDSL, cable and FTTH technologies, Nokia
experts have conducted in-depth analyses in Western Europe and the USA on behalf of major operators.
The findings show that while 5G fixed wireless access has its own challenges, with expert network planning,
a viable business case can be created that satisfies all the needs for high quality household broadband
5G can deliver a good balance of performance and costs for a solid business case for FWA. There are many
variables to consider in network planning, many of which can radically alter the validity of the chosen
business model. Finding the most suitable business case takes detailed planning, advanced analytical
approaches and radio planning expertise.

2. 5G can address the fixed broadband access market in

mature markets
The high performance and cost effectiveness of 5G radio networks holds the promise of new business
opportunities for CSPs, beyond anything that has so far been possible with previous generation mobile
radio, even LTE and its more advanced flavors.
Using wireless technologies to deliver economic, fiber-like, high-throughput broadband to homes has long
been an ambition for many CSPs. For mobile CSPs, commercially viable FWA would enable them to offer
triple play or quad play services. Combining TV, broadband, fixed voice and mobile services on a single
bill offers the ultimate convenience for consumers and new revenue sources for the CSP. A practical FWA
solution would also enable existing non-mobile CSPs to achieve deeper market penetration through lower
deployment costs and faster roll out.
CSPs need to select the right access technologies according to the conditions of the market or the area
they wish to serve. Factors influencing the decision include any existing infrastructure, the density of

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households in the served area, the broadband speeds needed, the time it takes to provide new services
and the costs. Achieving a balance between these factors means taking fiber to the most economical
point, which in some cases could be all the way to the business or home. In other cases, it could mean
taking it to a point close enough to use the copper or cable local loop, or a wireless technology, to
complete the connection to the customer and still provide ultra-broadband services. The precise point is
determined by the economics of the business case.
The market for household broadband connectivity will be dominated by cable and xDSL. In Western Europe,
only 20 percent of all lines by 2021 will be fiber-based. The arrival of 5G creates a business opportunity for
CSPs to address this unserved market by offering competitively priced, yet high performance broadband
access to households not served by fiber.
Consequently, FWA is one of early use cases for 5G and trial deployments have already started.

Access Technology Share by 2021








xDSL Cable FTTh/b

Figure 1. About 80 percent of broadband access lines are expected to be on xDSL and cable,
creating a large market opportunity for FWA (Pyramid Fixed Market Forecast 4Q2016).

3. Creating a viable business case for 5G-based FWA

To establish the parameters of a commercially viable business case for 5G radio access to support fixed
broadband connectivity to households, Nokia experts have run an extensive analysis in an urban area in
Western Europe and an analysis and trial deployment in the USA. While the results would not apply in the
same way for every city, they do give a good indication of the practicalities of a successful deployment.
The analysis also reveals that an FWA deployment is significantly different to a conventional wireless
network implementation and has different planning requirements.
FWA network planning considers only specific areas, neighborhoods and even streets that have the
required household density and business potential, based on commonly-available demographic and
marketing data. This approach enables the most promising prospects to be targeted first, with other
households being targeted in later roll outs. This is very different to conventional network planning that
must target a wide geographical coverage area from the outset to support mobility.
An FWA deployment is also a good way to build a subscriber base, prove demand and justify investing in a
FTTH project at a later stage.

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3.1. In reality, high quality services can be delivered at lower throughput
Based on the cases in the Nokia study, the analysis first considered the actual likely demand of households
and the performance targets to meet those demands.
The demand model focuses on video as being the primary source of traffic, assuming different people
living at a household using a variety of devices, both personal such as a tablet, and shared, such as a large
screen TV. The required video resolution for each device type was used to assess the likely annual IP traffic
This information can then be used to provide a range of data rates that would be needed to support
typical uses. It turns out that the actual throughput rate needed is far less than the often-quoted 1
Gbps peak data rate of FTTH. A sustained throughput of 38-65 Mbps per household between 2018-28 is
expected to satisfy the needs of 99 percent of households, with an average throughput of only around 50
Mbps being necessary to satisfy typical demand for 95 percent of households.
The analysis of the business case for 5G-based FWA was built around providing higher end sustained
throughputs of up to 90 Mbps in 2028, adding 25 Mbps to the 65 Mbps value for the 99th percentile to
cater for instantaneous peaks that may be shared by all the households served by a single access node.
For example, if the access nodes serve 20 homes, 20 x 25 = 500 Mbps reserve capacity is available for
anyone in the service group to enjoy other high-end services, even when all households are served with
sustained video services.

BH Sustained throughput per household

70 99%

60 98%


20 5%

10 2%

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027

Figure 2. The amount of traffic per household can be assessed according to typical device use, stream
sharing, display resolution and compression techniques used.

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3.2. The nuts and bolts of the 5G solution
The analysis is based on using the 28 GHz mmWave band with either 400 MHz or 800 MHz bandwidth and
with 5G base stations mounted 9m above ground on utility poles. Various inter-site distances (ISDs) were
considered, ranging from 228m to 684m using two-sector cells with Massive MIMO antennas on each site.
As shown in Figure 3, a 228m ISD allowed 80 percent of homes to achieve 1 Gbps peak throughput in
dense urban environments.

Peak throughput feasibility










0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2
Peak throughput (gbps)
228m ISD 456m ISD 684m ISD

Figure 3. The percentage of households that can be served peak throughput of 1 Gbps in dense urban
areas with typical vegetation in the environment.

A directional high-gain antenna is placed on each household’s exterior wall at a height of either 3m or 6m
facing the nearest access point. Such an antenna would have an unobtrusive design and be easy to install,
ensuring the best possible connection to the base station antenna.
Backhaul from each base station uses fiber. A cloud-based architecture is implemented at the base station.

5G AP (active antenna)
(28 GHz, 400 MHz, 2 sectors)
Indoor CPE
rd Baseband
Pre-s Air IF
fiber fiber (˜2km)

Households Street Street

furniture cabinet
Central/regional office
Figure 4. Backhaul is initially provided by fiber, served with cloud RAN architecture.

5G AP top view (8 sector) 5G AP top view (8 sector)

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-5Gbit/s Aggregation
3.3. Analysis of multiple scenarios reveals viable business cases
Successful FTTH deployments typically have a take-up rate of around 30 percent. Various take-up rates
were used for sensitivity analyses, but to facilitate a conservative analysis, 20 percent service penetration
was assumed for the final results.
In addition, scenarios were run with and without overbooking. An overbooking factor of 10: 1 is quite
common in fixed access networks even in developed countries, while a factor of up to 50:1 is often applied
in fixed wireless access in developing countries. This study restricted overbooking to a low factor of 2:1.
The model included different household densities, from low end suburban densities of around 1,000
homes per km2 to high end urban densities of 8000+ homes per km2.

3.4. One study’s key findings – 1 Gbps peak service, 20 percent

take-up rate
The results analyzed were from a study in Western Europe and so will not be applicable in all circumstances.
Nokia experts can provide an analysis of each CSP’s individual circumstances. With this in mind, some key
findings of the study include:
• 5G-based FWA can provide FTTH-like speeds but makes economic sense only when overbooking is
Average cost per HH (Euros) - 20% take rate

2,000 1,832

1,500 1,312
1,000 Figure 5. CapEx per
household for various
500 technologies and
0 different service targets.
FTTH Wholesale FWA FTTH- FWA with FWA with
(5 yrs) like overbooking overbooking
@ 800MHz

Like the business case for other fixed access investments, 5G-based FWA makes economic sense at
take-up rates above 20 percent in most areas, with the only exception being high-density areas where
the design is capacity driven rather than coverage driven.

10yr CAPEX per HHC (Euros) - by take rate






2,000 Figure 6. CapEx per

household sensitivity
with take rate, for
0 various morphologies.
10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
Dense Urban Urban Sub Urban

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• The sweet spot for deployment is housing densities between 2,500 and 5,500 households per km2.
• 5G-based FWA deployment with overbooking is recommended in areas where the competition
comprises cable and xDSL services, not existing fiber based services.

5yr CAPEX comparison per HHC Vs take rate (Euros)







10% 20% 30% 40% 50%

FTTH FTTH-like FWA FWA with overbooking

Figure 7. CapEx per household sensitivity with take-up rate, for various service targets.

5G - based FWA without overbooking 5G - based FWA with overbooking

Takerate Dense Urban Urban Suburban Takerate Dense Urban Urban Suburban

Figure 8. Recommendations for service technologies based on morphologies and take-up rates.

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4. Success critically depends on deploying new planning and
analysis expertise
The complexity of possible scenarios with different economic characteristics in just one city shows
that detailed and careful network planning is an essential part of achieving a viable business case for
5G-based FWA.
Conventional network planning for mobile access is unlikely to cover all the possibilities and specific needs for
FWA. For example, in a pilot deployment in the USA, it was found that just a small difference of a few meters
in the location of a base station antenna caused substantial attenuation from foliage, leading to a twenty-
fold decrease in throughput to an external receiver outside and zero connectivity inside the household.

Figure 9. Environmental surroundings must be planned for – a few meters difference in location of this
antenna caused the difference between good indoor throughput of several Mbps and zero connectivity
(LOS = line of sight)

Once deployed it would be impossible to recover the expected performance using traditional RF and
parameter optimization such as down-tilting the antenna. The solution is to apply radio network planning
methodologies that use advanced analytics, which are today only used for niche applications.
Further analysis is needed to identify where technologies such as beamforming and massive multiple
input multiple output (MIMO) could be deployed to reduce interference. Analysis of existing fiber networks
can establish the locations for FTTH deployment and where 5G-based FWA is more cost-effective as
a complementary access. The definition of the network topology and the location of the points of
concentration (see CloudRAN) is another essential factor for assuring the needed capacity required by wide
band services.
The performance and commercial viability of any FWA deployment is clearly highly sensitive to a complex
and wide-ranging set of variables. A detailed feasibility analysis is essential to validate the business model.
Nokia analysis of potential FWA deployments across the globe help to create a baseline of data that can
be applied to kick-start the planning of a business case and the required end-to-end solution design for
any CSP. Detailed radio planning, propagation models and core and transport network design can then be
undertaken to ensure a successful business case.

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Figure 10. Example of peak DL throughput plot for five sites, one with two remote units at 28 GHz and 800
MHz bandwidth. Note the propagation in line-of-sight at 28 GHz and the wide antenna footprint obtained
with combined beams.
10 © Nokia 2016 Confidential

4.1. Expertise and experience in 5G FWA planning

Having recently completed a detailed analysis of the feasibility of 5G-based FWA in Europe and a study
for a US CSP with a pilot deployment, Nokia is well placed to offer sophisticated planning services as an
extension of its existing capabilities.
As with any 5G use case, it’s vital to begin the planning for 5G FWA as soon as possible and establish a
solid business case. Nokia 5G Acceleration Services offer a systematic approach to assess the business
potential of a planned FWA deployment and to achieve the most efficient and cost-effective roll out of
5G-based FWA.
Nokia experts help a CSP explore the business possibilities of FWA with an initial 5G Transformation
Discovery Workshop, which uses business modelling and other expert tools to provide a detailed insight
into a range of 5G use cases. Planning services make it possible to re-use existing network assets such as
radio sites, transport and core network and fibers. This is followed by 5G network and operations planning
to prepare the CSP’s network architecture and operational processes.
Once a solid plan is in place, Nokia services can then help CSPs to deploy 5G for the FWA using a proven

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4.2. Nokia FIRST: A full solution based on commercially available
To make 5G a commercial reality and enable early adopters to trial 5G in a commercial setting, Nokia is now
offering the world’s first 5G solution. Nokia 5G FIRST spans the entire network and builds on the 5G-ready
commercial Nokia AirScale and AirFrame platforms to deliver a complete and versatile solution to CSPs.
The solution comprises several innovative components:
• 5G AirScale massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna, initially available for 3.5, 28 and 39 GHz
• AirScale Radio Access baseband upgraded to 5G and AirScale Cloud RAN for 5G FIRST and later 3GPP
standards as they are finalized
• 5G AirScale can also use any Nokia Flexi RF units already deployed by CSPs for 700 MHz, 800 MHz and
850 MHz frequencies, protecting a CSP’s existing investment in radio technology
• Cloud packet core with cloud-native architecture to support essential service capabilities such
as network slicing and DevOps cloud systems. The core also provides the scalability needed for
5G, through ‘state-efficient’ processing, software disaggregation and centralized and distributed
deployment models. The cloud-native architecture results in up to 80 percent cost savings and can also
be used for LTE
• Nokia ‘anyhaul’ end-to-end transport portfolio for the 5G era and IP backhaul offer
cost-effective backhauling and ultra-low latency end-to-end transport
• Nokia 5G FIRST includes the world’s first 5G user device for fixed wireless powered by Intel’s 5G
commercial chipset. Supporting 5G-to-the-home, the 5G modem connects to a local 5G radio.
Nokia 5G Acceleration Services are designed to help CSPs at all stages, from envisioning to designing and
implementing 5G use cases, as well as help to help evolve their business, networks and operations to 5G in
a timely manner.
The services use Nokia Bell Labs Consulting techno-economic modeling and Nokia services patented
network design and optimization tools to validate business cases and define the right technology choices.
This leads to tailored transformation plans with end-to-end design and support for 5G use cases based on
reference architecture and solution blueprints.
5G Transformation Consultancy, 5G Phase 1 Network Design and 5G Cross-Domain Architecture Services
(xDA) all help to deploy 5G FIRST networks.

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5. Conclusion: viable FWA business models
Detailed analysis of a potential 5G-based FWA deployment in Europe and further analysis and pilot
installation for an operator in the USA have shown that a valid business case can be established based
on the use of mmWave spectrum. The performance that can be achieved by 5G can match that of FTTH.
However, reducing the target throughput creates a business model that is competitive with cable and
xDSL technologies, while offering performance that supports the broadband needs of a wide variety of
connected households, mainly driven by TV and other video services.
The costs associated with different ultra-broadband technologies must be carefully weighed up against the
ARPU that they bring and the speed at which those revenues can be realized.
The deployment of 5G-based FWA involves a complex set of parameters and requirements that do not fall
within the scope of conventional mobile broadband use cases. Success is highly dependent on a broad
range of parameters. The planning and analysis of the possibilities demands a level of know-how that is
broad and encompasses network planning capabilities, mmWave radio propagation expertise and analytics
insights to properly assess environmental factors.
Nokia is the only vendor able to provide and support a full-breadth of fiber, copper, cable and mobile
ultra-broadband technologies in all markets globally. This allows Nokia to be technology agnostic in the
advice it provides. Nokia Services and Nokia Bell Labs Consulting have advanced business modeling tools
to help CSPs determine the best mix of technologies for their businesses.
With this help, CSPs can open a new stream of revenue and capture new customers attracted to the
convenience and quality that only a multi-play provider can offer.

6. Abbreviations
3GPP Third Generation Partnership Project
BTS Base Transceiver Station
CPRI Common Public Radio Interface
CSP Communications Service Provider
DSL Digital Subscriber Line
EPC Evolved Packet Core
FTTH Fiber to the Home
FWA Fixed Wireless Access
ISP Internet Service Provider
LOS Line of Sight
MEC Multi-access Edge Computing
MIMO Multiple Input Multiple Output
OBSAI Open Base Station Architecture Initiative
PoE Power over Ethernet
RAN Radio Access Network
RRH Remote Radio Head

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