Airtel and Ericsson complete demo for mmWave 5G FWA service

Airtel and Ericsson complete demo for mmWave 5G FWA service

Indian telco Bharti Airtel and Ericsson revealed on Wednesday that they have successfully demonstrated millimetre-wave (mmWave) 5G functionality on Airtel’s network, as part of Airtel’s plan to launch 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) services.

According to a joint statement from both firms, the demo achieved peak speeds of 4.7Gbps using the 26-GHz band.

Nunzio Mirtillo , head of Ericsson Southeast Asia, Oceania and India, said the demo “is a significant step in showcasing how mmWave can be scaled and integrated into a commercial mobile network.”

The mobile sector has always seen mmWave as a key component of 5G’s selling points of ultra-fast data speeds and ultra-low latencies because of its short signal range and high capacity compared to mid-bands below 6 GHz.

While the main use case for mmWave is serving densely populated urban areas with heavy mobile user traffic, FWA has been attracting interest as a viable mmWave 5G application. Japan’s NTT Docomo has been offering mmWave 5G FWA since 2021, and operators in Australia, the US and Italy have also deployed mmWave 5G FWA.

Airtel – which completed its 5G rollout in all districts and union territories last year – plans to use mmWave to launch FWA services as an efficient and scalable alternative to deploying fibre in unserved areas.

“The peak throughput experienced during the testing gives us the confidence to deploy mmWave for FWA applications,” said Airtel CTO Randeep Singh Sekhon. “Using FWA customer premises equipment supported with 5G mmWave will not only help in delivering greater speeds but will also enable us to cover the large number of users that are not connected so far due to inaccessible fibre connections.”

Ericsson expects 5G FWA to see significant takeup over the next five years. According to its 2024 Insights report, global FWA connections will grow from 130 million (as of the end of 2023) to 330 million by the end of 2029, representing 18% of all fixed broadband connections. Of that, close to 85% are expected to be over 5G.

Ericsson also expects 5G FWA to gain traction especially in developing markets. The vendor said that 50 out of 121 service providers with 5G FWA offerings are in emerging markets as of November 2023, although it didn’t say how many of those are using mmWave.

Meanwhile, Airtel is still waiting to acquire mmWave spectrum for its FWA service. The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) intends to include the 26-GHz band for the first time in its next spectrum auction, as well as spectrum in the 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2300, 2500 and 3300 MHz bands.

The Union Cabinet approved the DoT’s auction plan earlier this month. According to media reports, the DoT hopes to hold the auction sometime in March, as existing 900/1800 MHz licences for Airtel and Vodafone Idea in some of India’s geographic circles will be up for renewal at that time.


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