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Fidelity to Rollout First UK 5G Fixed Wireless Broadband in West Sussex

Thursday, August 8th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 2,904
5g-fwa-broadband-image

A new wireless ISP called Fidelity Broadband is planning to build and operate the United Kingdom’s first 1Gbps capable 5G based Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) service, which will harness transmitters in existing street lighting in order to potentially connect over 1 million premises “on-demand“.

At present EE and Vodafone have already launched ultrafast 5G services, although so far these have been predominantly focused on the mobile environment and not FWA connectivity. Admittedly the definition of an FWA service is somewhat open to interpretation and we dare say that some operators would argue their dedicated Mobile Broadband plans and related customer routers come close to being the same sort of product.

In this case the setup being proposed by Fidelity – supported by Luminet‘s Smart City platform – appears to harness 5G technology in the 60GHz and 70GHz millimetre Wave (mmW) bands (i.e. very limited reach but incredibly fast low latency Gigabit speeds to nearby homes and businesses). The network is also intended for other applications too.

Fidelity’s FWA mmW Network Applications
• Wireless broadband access to homes and businesses;
• 5G backhaul connectivity for small cells and WiFi access;
• Backhaul connectivity for Internet of Things (IoT) devices and smart cities;
• FTTx fixed line network extension.

Fidelity says the advantage of this approach is that they can deliver “fibre-like speeds,” albeit “at a fraction of the cost of deploying new fibre infrastructure” (i.e. less need for disruptive civil engineering work).

Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director, said:

“By releasing new spectrum, in the millimetre-wave band, we’re underlining our commitment to enabling innovation. This spectrum will support new services such as 5G fixed wireless access, which could enable fibre-like speeds to be delivered to homes and businesses wirelessly.”

On the flip side this does require that the otherwise fairly short-range wireless network has good access to nearby street furniture and a multi-Gigabit fibre optic capacity link for backhaul, which is not readily available everywhere. Coverage could be an issue here.

The above may help to explain why Fidelity is currently only talking about urban and suburban areas of UK towns and cities, where lamp posts line the majority of streets, providing a dense network of power enabled, publicly-controlled infrastructure, that has the potential to act as a platform to host a wide range of communications, data monitoring and collection and IoT devices.

Another possible caveat here, which was recently highlighted by EE (here), is that other operators may have already signed “exclusive concessions agreements” that could act to limit the ability of such infrastructure to be harnessed by rival networks. On this front Luminet already has quite a sizeable network (mostly in London) and they’re also working with local Government to provide an open platform for 5G FWA services.

Robert Condon, Founder and CEO of Fidelity, said:

“Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) deployment is a marathon not a sprint. With all its challenges of rising build costs, planning delays, wayleaves and disruptive street works. It will take years to meet government’s FTTP roll-out objectives.

Wireless will help to speed up this process. It’s less expensive and faster to deploy than fibre networks. FWA is a viable stand-alone alternative broadband technology solution as well as being complimentary to FTTP.”

Fidelity is now offering to partner with fibre optic operators to deploy 5G FWA networks in areas where they have no existing reach. This could include off-net sites e.g. commercial buildings, business and retail parks, new housing developments and MDUs, as well as difficult wayleaves and conservation areas (i.e. places where it is difficult to gain access to dig fibre).

As we complete the roll out of each target area we will open up our 5G wireless network to ISPs, resellers and MNOs. We will offer dedicated access and backhaul circuits of up to 10Gbps at competitive rates backed up by a comprehensive SLA,” said Fidelity.

However it’s difficult to see how the new Government could square this with their seemingly unachievable desire to blanket the entire UK with “full fibre” networks by 2025 (here), which is a shame because the approach being proposed above does have plenty of merit. On the other hand Fidelity isn’t the first to try it and Relish Wireless (UK Broadband Ltd.) long held a similar ambition before being gobbled up by Three UK.

Speaking of Three UK, the operator has made no secret of their own plans to harness 140MHz of 5G friendly radio spectrum in order to launch both a mobile service and a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solution for ultrafast broadband connectivity – likely to surface under the Three Broadband brand (formerly Relish) – this month. Both they and Vodafone have also gone hard into “unlimited data” packages.

In fact Three UK has made many of the same remarks before as Fidelity does above and they believe in a similar approach to complement FTTH. Suffice to say that there’s going to be some competition for this particular crown.

Meanwhile Fidelity is planning to commence Phase One of their network rollout in January 2020, with the first customers then being connected in July 2020. The company is currently in discussions with investment advisors and institutions to raise additional capital for its UK 5G wireless network deployment.

We understand that the new 5G FWA network will initially aim to launch across a number of towns in West Sussex and then rollout to other counties in the South of England, before starting to head north. At this stage there are no details on packages or prices but we’re very keen to see what the new network has to offer.

5g-fwa-broadband-image

We should point out that one of the company’s founders, Robert Condon, is a recognised industry veteran (ex Comcast, Hutchison and Cable & Wireless) and he is being supported by wireless expert Dr William Webb. In other words, there’s some good talent at the top and that’s not a bad place to start.

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Mark Jackson
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.
Leave a Comment
1 Response
  1. Avatar 5G Infinity

    With William and Robert at the helm they certainly have 2 experts, however they will also know that there are no 5G NR radios available at either 60 or 70GHz at the moment, nor is there an IMT designation (not that one is needed to deliver 5G) in these bands.

    Therefore the radios are WiFi based (802.11ad) and not 5G. I am sure there will be 5G NR at 60GHz post WRC19 where 5G in this band is being discussed.

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