Director of Studies, IDATE DigiWorld Contact
Fixed LTE will be definitly part of the game: by the end of 2020 we forecast, overall, almost 5 billion LTE SIMs worldwide or 78% of total SIMs.
The fixed-mobile convergence has been trending for years. The opportunity to use LTE and its evolutions as a solution for providing high-speed Internet access at fixed locations has raised generated much interest in the last two to three years.
The use of LTE for fixed access makes sense. The elements to make adoption possible are there. Throughputs delivered over LTE are on par with fixed ones or are expected to be on par in the medium term. Population coverage is almost universal and will continue to increase to cover hard-to-reach areas. LTE fixed monetisation without any data caps is another valuable asset. All the lights will be on green when coverage reaches rural areas thanks to low spectrum use or to government push.
On the technological side, fixed LTE holds many virtues over WiMAX, satellite, mobile LTE or XGP/AXGP technologies even if there are no real specificities to fixed LTE when it comes to standard.
• Fixed LTE networks are basically just LTE networks addressing fixed users. Fixed LTE retains mobile LTE advantages in terms of throughputs/capacity and latency. Population coverage is likely to remain a weakness. It is not really a different technology from mobile LTE but it is to be implemented in very different ways when it is provided as a fixed-only technology or as a complement to a mobile network. Other fixed LTE advantages include:
• Higher power emission levels than for mobile LTE leading to improved signal quality.
• Mobile LTE is mostly operated on FDD mode and on TDD for fixed LTE. Fixed LTE could be mostly operated on TDD mode which is better suited for providing Internet access than FDD. Higher frequencies considered for fixed TDD LTE notably in 3.5 GHz, 2.3 GHz and 1.4 GHz bands or in very high frequencies necessitate heavy deployment of small cells for blind-spots coverage and the use of satellite to handle tightened backhaul issues.
• Hybrid solutions combining xDSL and LTE show similar strengths to fixed LTE with slightly higher latency. They are gaining traction with some commercial launches in Europe.
• Satellite and especially new LEO satellite constellations can likely offset the relative weakness of fixed LTE in terms of population coverage.
Favourable market dynamics have pushed a number of players to jump onto the bandwagon. They aim at either enlarging their customer base, giving a boost to revenues (MNOs, integrated players, satellite), or taking a chance to remain a market disruptor and eating into mobile revenues (OTT), or at repositioning themselves in case of an upturn (LMDS players, PHS or WiMAX providers and CDMA2000 450 MHz players). CDMA2000 players are migrating towards LTE in the 450 MHz band. Former PHS (Japan) or WiMAX providers also see real opportunities in shifting towards fixed LTE. Manufacturers offer fixed LTE solutions to meet market demand and help operators close the gap between investment and returns.
From a commercial perspective, the door is open for fixed LTE as a mid-term solution whose business case however is rather limited in developed countries, mainly focused on connecting the un- or under-connected in rural areas. In developing countries where fixed broadband is really limited, the market for fixed LTE is more promising.