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ADTRAN – 5G Mobile is an Argument for More FTTH Ultrafast Broadband

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 (12:24 pm) - Score 972

A new whitepaper from total telecom and ADTRAN has suggested that the roll-out of future ultrafast 5G mobile services and Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband networks will create a “symbiotic relationship” where “they are driving each other’s business case.”

The impact of 5G networks is currently the subject of much debate. Earlier this year a report, which was funded by Deutsche Telekom, suggested that tackling broadband needs by focusing on pure fibre optic (FTTP/H) connectivity was “backward looking” and it might instead be better to foster a fibre fed 5G wireless future.

Similarly the former boss of mobile operator O2 UK, Ronan Dunne, has previously suggested that over the longer term we should “forget this stupid debate about rolling out fibre cables” and adopt the notion of a “digitally-led mobile first” (here). One of the reasons for this is because 5G will be able to cope with multi-Gigabit mobile data speeds, which also makes it ideal as a fixed wireless broadband solution for homes.

However ADTRAN‘s new and rather short whitepaper doesn’t mince its words and predicts that the “implications [of 5G] for the broadband industry and society as a whole are enormous,” with the technology being expected to “enable a major societal paradigm shift, powering the Internet of Everything” (hurray for silly slogans! – “Internet of Everything”). We’re not yet convinced that it will do all that, but it’s certainly a big upgrade.

At the same time ADTRAN doesn’t see 5G as replacing the role of FTTH in the fixed line broadband market, instead they suggest that the new mobile technology may actually become another driving force behind “full fibre” deployments.

Extract from the Whitepaper

Fiber design lays a path for multiple uses of that fiber, including backhaul/fronthaul for 5G microcells, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) for consumers, and Fiberto-the-Premises (FTTP) for small and mid-sized business (SMB) and enterprise applications. The applications are plentiful. With the Internet of Things (IoT) now emerging, the demand for high-bandwidth connectivity for the home, business, and enterprise is multiplying exponentially. Securely interconnecting private, hybrid, and public clouds drives increased demand for secure symmetrical multi-Gigabit bandwidth. Consumer applications including 4K and virtual reality will drive more adoption of Gigabit broadband tiers.

Existing FTTH providers are well positioned too. There are already tens of millions of homes passed with pointto-multipoint fiber in the U.S., and hundreds of millions globally. Those existing fiber networks are ideally suited for the ongoing fiber densification process driven by 5G, which in turn justifies additional investment for and expansion of FTTH. This growing symbiotic relationship is one reason why existing fiber networks look so attractive for acquisition.

Sadly such discussions remain extremely hypothetical (commercial 5G networks won’t roll-out in the UK and most of the EU at scale until 2020 onwards) and it remains to be seen whether the technology will be able to overcome the age old problems of mobile connectivity, not least terms of limited usage allowances, high prices, CGNAT and other restrictions.

As we’ve said before, there’s currently far more hype than substance hovering around 5G and it’s still a technology that remains in the R&D phase. Certainly one of the best ways to fuel future 5G networks will be via fibre optic cables and so there will be some benefit for both sides from that, although at launch vanilla 5G mobile services will probably not be much better than the best 4G services, but they will eventually pull away (just as we saw with the 3G to 4G transition).

In amongst all this talk it’s easy to forget that current 4G networks are already reaching the Gigabit capability stage, albeit only in a few urban areas. In that sense it’s difficult to see how 5G will truly produce a “major societal paradigm shift,” especially as simply being faster isn’t always enough of a killer app, unless you can match it with affordability, coverage and flexibility. Time will tell.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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