Wireless Broadband Continues to Serve as Complement for, Rather Than Replacement of, Robust Wireline Networks, Study Finds

For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Withers, 703-351-2087, lwithers@ntca.org 

Review explores technical capabilities and challenges of 5G networks in meeting consumer demands, rise of connected devices

Arlington, Va. (February 13, 2017)—Wireless technologies like 5G may offer much promise, but they will rely even more deeply upon and serve as a complement to robust wireline broadband technologies rather than a replacement for them, according to a technical report issued today by telecommunications engineering and consulting firm Vantage Point Solutions and filed with the FCC by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

The study, “Evaluating 5G Wireless Technology as a Complement or Substitute for Wireline Broadband,” reviews wireless technologies’ capability to meet current and future demands of America’s broadband customers. Vantage Point found that although there is much anticipation about possible speeds for 5G wireless networks, a 5G network relies on an extensive and robust wireline network and even then is a poor substitute for a wireline connection in terms of performance, reliability, and investment. The report also contains a checklist of questions that should be asked in evaluating and validating the capabilities of any potential wireless deployment.

Among the report’s key findings are:

  • Spectrum: 5G networks will require massive amounts of spectrum to accomplish their target speeds. At the very high frequencies proposed for 5G, the RF signal does not propagate far enough to be practical for any wide area coverage, which is particularly important for rural areas.
  • Access Network Sharing: 5G wireless technologies are not a good solution for the sorts of data-heavy uses and applications that are driving much broadband demand. 
  • Economics: When compared to the costs associated with deploying a 5G network, especially in rural areas, fiber-to-the-home is often less expensive (particularly given how much fiber will be needed in any event for 5G) and will have lower operational costs.
  • Reliability: Wireless technologies are inherently less reliable than wireline, with significantly increased potential for environmental and line-of-sight impairments with the high frequencies used by 5G.

“When considering the most effective and efficient use of public or private resources for broadband networks, it is necessary to understand the current and future user demands on those networks and to determine the type of network needed to meet those demands,” said Larry Thompson, P.E., Vantage Point Solutions’ chief executive officer and the report’s chief author. “Although 5G wireless networks offer the promise of higher speeds than other wireless technologies, one must remember that they are becoming more dependent upon the wireline network and they still fall short when compared to wireline technologies in cost and reliability. For this reason, we continue to believe wireless networks are an important complement to, not a true replacement for, robust wireline networks that will stand the test of time and support consumers’ increased demands for many years to come.”

The full text of the white paper is available here.

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About NTCA

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing more than 800 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. NTCA advocates on behalf of its members in the legislative and regulatory arenas, and it provides training and development; publications and industry events; and an array of employee benefit programs. In an era of exploding technology, deregulation and marketplace competition, NTCA’s members are leading the IP evolution for rural consumers, delivering technologies that make rural communities vibrant places in which to live and do business. Because of their efforts, rural America is fertile ground for innovation in economic development and commerce, education, health care, government services, security and smart energy use. Visit us at www.ntca.org.

About Vantage Point Solutions

Vantage Point Solutions (VPS) is a leading telecommunications engineering and consulting company, providing services to more than 400 companies across the United States. VPS offers a comprehensive line of services, blending technology, regulatory expertise and financial advice into one attractive package. In addition to a full line of professional engineering services, including both wireless and wireline engineering, VPS provides a full range of financial and regulatory services. VPS has helped hundreds of telecommunication companies be successful in today’s rapidly changing technical and regulatory environment and led them in their transition from legacy TDM networks to broadband IP networks.  Visit us at www.vantagepnt.com