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Residential 5G Broadband Brings Speed to Consumers


Following several years of testing and standards development, network providers will for the first-time begin offering consumers 5G wireless connectivity. While many use cases exist for 5G, including for edge computing, IoT devices, mobile devices, medical applications and self-driving cars; fixed-wireless residential service is among the most impactful for consumers in the near term.

Broadband access is paramount for economic opportunity and consumers have come to expect internet speeds good enough to simultaneously connect multiple devices for a variety of purposes, such as streaming content, gaming or basic internet searches. According to the Federal Communication Commission’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, 90.8 percent of the U.S. population has access to 50 megabits per second (Mbps)/5Mbps broadband connection (though just 64 percent of the U.S. rural population). This means millions of Americans are limited to either a zero or a single broadband provider.

Residential 5G service will increase both consumer access and competition with low latency, high-speed wireless data connections in the home. Earlier this fall, Verizon launched its 5G residential service with AT&T expected to begin mobile 5G service by year end. This will be followed by Sprint and T-Mobile launching offerings to consumers in early 2019. By 2020, it is estimated that full-scale deployment for both residential and mobile service will be underway and new internet providers may emerge.

The technologies will vary by provider with short, mid- and high-range millimeter waves delivering high-speed access to mobile and fixed-wireless devices at speeds exceeding today’s typical fixed-line home broadband connection. To deliver high speeds over limited range spectrum, providers must install antennas at far closer range than traditional cellular towers. Comparatively, 4G equipped cellular towers provide a range of several miles, whereas 5G service is limited in many cases to several hundred feet. This requires the installation of antenna units on existing infrastructure including on lamp posts, telephone poles as well as indoor antennas in public spaces like airports and sporting venues.

AT&T’s 5G service will initially be deployed via mobile hotspot devices and utilize a short-range millimeter wave while delivering peak speeds of roughly 1 Gbps. Sprint’s 5G network incorporates MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas within the 2.5 GHz spectrum, which allows for dual deployment of 4G and 5G on the same equipment. T-Mobile’s network provides more widespread coverage compared to other major carriers by using 600 MHz spectrum, though initial data speeds will only be 25-50 percent faster than existing 4G networks. Verizon’s residential 5G service utilizes a fixed-base gateway device and accesses the network via high frequency millimeter wave in the 28 GHz spectrum with initial data speeds of 300 Mbps and peak speeds of roughly 1 Gbps.

As consumers begin to adopt residential 5G, many will choose to purchase a home gateway device. CTA forecasts 2.4 million 5G home gateways will ship in 2019, representing $295 million in wholesale revenue. By 2022, shipments will reach 22 million units annually and more than $2.4 billion in annual wholesale revenue. Residential 5G advances home internet connectivity into the next continuum, unlocking new choices for consumers at data speeds once thought to be impossible.

Bobby Baulmer

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