WTTx, or wireless to the x, is not a new concept. The industry has been exploring expanded applications for wireless broadband for years. But in recent times, this 4.5G-based technology has been generating quite the buzz. What's with the sudden surge in interest?
The advantages of WTTx are universal, but also uniquely beneficial across different markets and regions.
Cost savings are the most obvious benefit, with WTTx offering savings of at least 60% relative to investments in fixed broadband networks. WTTx doesn’t require digging or trenching when passing homes, and no wiring or wall-drilling when connecting them. It's simply plug and play.
Short time-to-market is another hallmark of WTTx, especially for mobile operators. Launching WTTx typically only takes a few months because it doesn't require upgrades for either RAN or core networks. Comparatively speaking, fixed solutions can often take a much longer time to get up and running.
Many operators offer WTTx services that are instantly accessible, easy to set up, more affordable, and with greater portability. It's a win-win for operators and subscribers alike.
This is particularly true for mobile operators who have already made their investment in 4G mobile broadband (MBB). WTTx takes advantage of a disparity in network utilization trends across different locations and time slots. Specifically, heavy MBB loads usually occur in highly populated business and public areas, like city centers, central business districts, and other popular venues. Peak hours typically occur during the day, while people are at work, in transit, or travelling. On the other hand, fixed broadband generally experiences heavy loads and peak hours at night, in residential areas when people are back at home. Simply put, there are no major overlaps in time and geography between MBB and fixed home broadband.
This trend provides WTTx with the perfect opening. It's the ideal overlay service for mobile operators to monetize their 4G networks by utilizing idle capacity across light-load geographies and time slots. It's also a good opportunity for mobile operators to test out the market before making further investments—let the business grow a bit on its own, reap some benefits from WTTx first, and if all goes well, further expansion is always an option. It's the exact opposite of the old truism; in this case, it's "no gain, no pain."
Many might assume that wireless broadband is mainly for rural areas or developing countries. Incidentally, statistics show that the region with the most CPE shipments isn't Africa or Latin America, but Europe.
Why is that?
For developing countries and regions with significant digital divides, WTTx helps provide basic broadband connectivity. However, there is also a substantial user segment that needs a boost in broadband speed. This user group typically lives in cities with existing fixed broadband access, but a stark need for better broadband, whether it be faster, more instantly available, pay-as-you-go, or simply more affordable. This is the perfect use case for WTTx.
Today, we are already seeing more WTTx deployment in developed markets like Japan, Oceania, Europe, as well as North America. And for these markets that have the urgent need for speed, we believe that the best is yet to come.
In ideal circumstances, using TDD spectrum as a dedicated carrier for WTTx can provide sufficient capacity and a better user experience, and it also isolates WTTx traffic from other MBB traffic. For these reasons, TDD deployment is often regarded as the “safer” approach to guarantee zero impact to your existing MBB business. The opposite side of the coin, however, is additional costs associated with overlaying WTTx on your mobile network.
Many mobile operators adopt a different approach—the "trial and expand" approach mentioned above. They first launch WTTx services with existing MBB networks, both to test the service and to assess market adoption. And then, as their home broadband user base increases, they expand WTTx services to the whole network, overlaying a new band as the dedicated carrier wave. This approach helps minimize risk and reduce CAPEX, as there's no need for an immediate network upgrade, and even CPE costs can be passed to end users in some markets.
In fact, switching CPE from an MBB band to dedicated carrier wave (e.g., 2.3GHz/2.6GHz/3.5GHz) can be avoided altogether if operators adopt multi-mode, multiband CPE on day one. In this way, WTTx users and their traffic can be steered to TDD bands without any impact, user migration, or OPEX involved.
Among household users, broadband access represents the most widespread demand for telecom services, and it can also be used to provide fixed voice services. Currently, a number of mobile operators in New Zealand and Sri Lanka offer voice and broadband bundles as part of their WTTx service package.
Video and TV are also in hot demand. Operators in Europe and the Middle East are starting to trial IPTV over LTE networks with Huawei. Solutions like this make effective reuse of legacy multi-cast IPTV platforms, making them available on 4.5G networks with coverage that is often far greater than FTTH.
With new 4.5G technology, massive MIMO can increase mobile network capacity by 600%, meaning one carrier can generate up to six carriers’ worth of throughput. Huawei believes that WTTx 2.0 will make the TV/video and smart home markets all the more feasible, both in terms of technology and business sustainability.
Low deployment and operating costs are one of WTTx’s greatest advantages. Meanwhile, WTTx is making huge progress in terms of speed. In a number of countries, the results of 4G speed tests are already surpassing those of fixed broadband, with growing numbers every day.
To get a first-hand look at the world's foremost commercial massive MIMO site, you can check out Huawei and Vodafone's booth. xGbps capacity per base station has officially become a commercial reality, and user experience is truly fiber-class.
WTTx provides fast access to home broadband markets, also enabling operators to quickly build up their coverage. In areas with extremely high throughput and high user density, however, FTTx certainly has its advantages.
By analyzing big data from WTTx and MBB networks, operators can identify areas best suited to FTTx deployment, enabling more precise rollout where needed. All told, overall ROI can be greatly improved by finding the right synergy between WTTx and FTTx.
To find out more about WTTx, feel free to visit Huawei's Home Broadband Booth in Hall 1.