5G Challenges: When Fixed Wireless Access Goes Rogue
By Jurie Roux, Product Marketing Manager, Business Analytics, TEOCO
While Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) has been in use with 4G network technology for some time now, when paired with 5G, it becomes a real game-changer for the mobile industry and consumers. With its blazing fast speeds, FWA is expected to become the fastest-growing segment of the home broadband market over the next five years. GSMA’s 2021 Mobile Economy Report states that FWA will be one of 5G’s- primary economic drivers over the next decade. And with 40% of the world’s rural households still lacking broadband connections, FWA will also play a big part in addressing the digital divide. That’s because it doesn’t require the expensive last-mile fiber connections that so many rural and underdeveloped regions lack – yet it still provides the high speeds consumers crave. With all this good news and expected growth, operators need to be alerted to a potential pitfall when rolling it out: the fact that the modems can (and will) be moved.
Modems on the Move
The fixed nature of FWA allows cellular operators to plan their networks to support the required SLAs for their customers. This requires ensuring the right physical resources are in place – typically a complex x-haul network that includes various types of antennas, small cells, macro cells and more.
However, one of the challenges operators must face is what to do when these ‘fixed’ connections start moving. After all, with no physical line tethering the user to the network – what’s to stop customers from taking their FWA modems and plugging them in elsewhere? And when this happens, how will the operator know, and what will happen to the quality of the service?
At TEOCO, we work with operators who are struggling with these issues in relation to their current 4G FWA service. Customers simply unplug the cellular modems and use them elsewhere. The reason this matters is that this service is often sold at a discount compared to traditional prepaid mobile usage, thereby hurting the operator’s bottom line, creating unforeseen demand on other parts of the network, and potentially causing poor service issues for customers.
We believe these challenges will begin to escalate as 5G FWA rolls out. One solution worth looking at is geo-locking the FWA modems – in effect, creating a usability ‘zone’ either at a specific address, or within a defined geographical area. If the user or anyone else takes the modem outside of this zone, the operator will know. They can then decide whether to raise it as an issue. If warranted, an automated alert can be sent to the customer that their service may be disrupted.
FWA geo-locking allows the operator to define the approved area of use. It could be any size boundary – a specific address (or several addresses), a university campus, or an entire city. Service providers can set the boundaries and even offer various tiered packages – perhaps a gold package for those customers who have two homes and want to take their service with them.
Benefits of FWA Geo-locking
1) Improves network planning
Proper network planning is critical for services like FWA. Geo-locking ensures fixed services remain fixed for the duration of the contract – which allows network engineers to properly allocate small cell resources and maximize available bandwidth because usage is predictable and fixed to a specific location.
2) Ensures a better user experience
5G FWA utilizes a complex array of antennas, small cells, and other network technologies to ensure quality of service. If FWA modems are moved, radio and x-haul networks are disrupted, and service quality may suffer. Automated notifications or alerts can be issued to customers to inform them of potential service impacts unless the equipment is restored to its original location. Or, instead of notifying the subscriber the first time the modem is moved, machine learning algorithms can help the operator better understand the circumstances. Perhaps it was a one-off instance, or the modem is being taken to a weekend lake house – but the move is not causing any adverse network issues. In these cases, the operator may opt not to send a notification, or may use it to prompt an upgrade.
3) Supports MVNOs and other reseller partner relationships
The 5G MVNO market is poised to reach USD 8.2 billion by 2026. With FWA geo-locking, data is analyzed to understand usage patterns to alert MVNO partners to contact their customers if the geo-fenced area is breached.
4) Provides avenues for upselling and increased ARPU
Geo-locking services will notify operators when modems are on the move, and data can be analyzed to spot travel patterns. This can alert operators that there may be a need for service at a new location – potentially triggering customer offers to either expand their current service or prompt new subscriptions.
5) Decreases risk of fraud and abuse
By Geo-locking FWA modems, operators and their enterprise customers can reduce the risk of fraud and abuse (by employees or others) by limiting the available service range to a defined zone. Modems can be tracked and then disabled if needed to prevent unapproved use.
To learn more about TEOCO’s FWA geo-locking capabilities and how it all works, be sure to check out our Smarthub Analytics platform and contact us for more info. And for other ways geo-intelligence can be used to support 5G networks, read our earlier blog post Leveraging geo-analytics to deliver on your network quality promises.