Wireless/5G and Fibre are not in competition; they are complementary.
by Ray O’Connor
At Indigo we design networks for both wireless/5G and fibre and take the fact they complement each other for granted. But for the wider world it seems that an education job still needs to be done. Where one wins over the other as the primary means of access should always depend on the business case and other network backhaul considerations.
Start with Making a Business Case
Weigh up performance versus cost and capacity requirements. The part that design and engineering play is in the network build. And that is where we can help to outline the pros and cons for fibre and wireless. Customers get a level of comfort from cable – it’s a tangible piece of network technology – that they don’t get from wireless. And fibre offers more network throughput. It might also involve digging up roads and complicated planning permissions that ramp up the costs.
5G and other wireless technologies can be deployed much faster and can carry larger data packets than ever before. The technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. So if the challenge is to deliver broadband to a hilly, rural village, for example, there’s no doubt that a 5G antenna mounted on a building is much faster and simpler to deploy than Fibre To The Home (FTTH).
There are plenty of good examples of how the two technologies are complementary and should be deployed where appropriate.
Why does all this matter? The answer is because of the demand for ‘pipes’ with ever-higher capacity, faster speeds and lower latency. The latest in a long line of mind-boggling stats. This one from IDC is that the 33 zettabytes of data generated in 2018 will grow by 61 per to 1,75ZB by 2025. It’s not just our insatiable appetite for digital content that has got us talking in terms of zettabytes (a zettabyte equals a trillion gigabytes). It’s the rise of IoT and plans for smart cities and connected cars.
We must be wary, however, because every new technology comes with hype. One of the large infrastructure providers showcased a massive 5G antenna with huge capacity, but if you put it on a site and pipe it back into copper it’s not going to perform. Similarly, when fibre networks are laid in the ground it’s important to remember that at some point the traffic will ramp off to something that doesn’t have the same bandwidth.
So it’s imperative that communication service providers take the big picture view with new network technologies. At Indigo we help identify the best combinations, whether it’s backhauling on fibre and providing the last mile with wireless or the other way around. We like to think that our experience will be an enabler for both our wireless and fibre clients. We enable them to deliver the infrastructure that will meet their customer demands in terms of cost, capacity, and performance.
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