Bharti Airtel Provides Insights on mmWave Fixed Wireless Access Plans

Bharti Airtel's CEO, Gopal Vittal, shared insights on the company's plans for mmWave spectrum and Fixed Wireless Access. While mmWave is considered precious spectrum, its utilization is still in the early stages. The high cost of CPEs poses challenges for FWA deployment. Vittal cited T-Mobile's experience to emphasize the need for a transition to fiber.

Highlights

  • Bharti Airtel's CEO discusses the potential of mmWave spectrum for future use.
  • The high cost of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) poses challenges for FWA.
  • T-Mobile's experience highlights the need to transition from FWA to fiber.

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Bharti Airtel Provides Insights on mmWave Fixed Wireless Access Plans

Bharti Airtel's Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Gopal Vittal, recently shared important details about the company's strategies regarding mmWave (millimeter wave spectrum - 26 GHz Band) and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) during the Earnings Webinar for the fourth quarter ending March 31, 2023. Let's look at some of the crucial points in this story.




Also Read: Bharti Airtel Q4 Net Profit Soars 50% To Rs 3,006 Crore, Revenue Surges by 14%

In his remarks, Vittal discussed the significance of the mmWave spectrum and shed light on the long-term vision for its utilization. He also addressed the challenges associated with FWA and the potential for cost reduction in the future.

mmWave Spectrum: Precious but Untapped

Regarding the millimetre wave spectrum, Vittal emphasized its value, stating, "This is a really precious spectrum. It is a large tranche. It has helped us save the spectrum usage charges as well, so to that extent, it has paid back by itself that spectrum."

However, he acknowledged that it is still the early days for 5G networks, and the mmWave spectrum remains untapped. Bharti Airtel holds a substantial 800 MHz spectrum allocation across all 22 circles in the 26 GHz band in India. The company is currently conducting trials to assess propagation characteristics, but there are no immediate plans for its deployment. Vittal confirmed that the company views mmWave as a long-term plan.

Also Read: Airtel Reaping the Benefits of 5G NSA Through Seamless Coverage and Experience

Challenges of Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)

Discussing Fixed Wireless Access, Vittal expressed concerns about the high cost of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE). He explained that the cost of CPEs for FWA remains considerably higher than the cost per connected home pass on fibre. While the cost for a connected home pass on fibre typically ranges from USD 100 to USD 120, the equivalent cost for a CPE is around USD 170 to USD 180. Vittal emphasized the consistency and reliability of fibre connections, providing a dedicated fibre experience into the home.

Also Read: Airtel 599 Postpaid Family Plan Sees Traction: Check What It Offers

Lessons from T-Mobile: Transition to Fiber

Vittal supported his observations by citing a real use case from the United States involving T-Mobile. He noted that although fixed wireless access can deliver a satisfactory experience when networks are not congested, challenges arise over time. Referring to T-Mobile's experience, he highlighted the importance of using FWA to reach areas lacking fibre infrastructure and subsequently transitioning to fibre connections for a sustainable network experience.

Also Read: WindTre FWA 5G Service Available in Five Regions of Italy

"In the case of fixed wireless access, you may get a very good experience when the networks are empty, but in five to seven years, like we are seeing in the case of T-Mobile in the US already beginning to see challenges on network experience through fixed wireless access," Gopal said.

Bharti Airtel's Cost Reduction Strategy for FWA

Bharti Airtel is actively exploring solutions to reduce the cost of FWA CPEs. Vittal expressed optimism that as the company scales up its operations, economies of scale may contribute to a reduction in CPE costs, thereby improving the viability of FWA as a widespread solution.

Also Read: SK Telecom to Stop Using 28 GHz Band for 5G: Report

SK Telecom's case of 28 GHz Cancellation

In a related development, South Korea's ICT ministry recently cancelled SK Telecom's license for the 28 gigahertz spectrum of a high-speed 5G network due to a lack of investment. This decision followed the cancellation of spectrum licenses in the same band allocated to KT and LG Uplus last year. The licenses were withdrawn as the carriers failed to meet the mandatory equipment installation requirements. This situation underscores the importance of careful assessment and planning when allocating spectrum licenses for high-band networks.

It is said that the haste to commercialize all 5G frequencies without proper evaluation of business prospects led to these challenges faced by South Korean carriers. "It is practically impossible to utilize 28 GHz for business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions," said SK Telecom, according to earlier reports.

Also Read: Swisscom Starts Offering 5G FWA Services for Enterprise Customers

Bharti Airtel's measured approach to mmWave and FWA highlights the company's commitment to delivering reliable and cost-effective connectivity solutions. As the telecommunications landscape continues to evolve, operators worldwide can draw important insights from the industry experiences of their peers.

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Telecom Analyst

Passionately following the Indian #Telecom Industry for over a decade from Business, Consumer and a Technical perspective. My primary focus area is Consumer & Digital Experience.

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