The Fiber Broadband Association has issued a bullish fiber deployment forecast. The forecast, which calls for approximately 1.4 million miles of fiber in the top 25 metro markets in the U.S., is driven in large part by carriers’ 5G wireless deployment plans, which will require fiber backhaul.

The FBA, formerly known as the Fiber to the Home Council Americas, promotes fiber deployment to homes, business and “to everywhere,” the organization notes in a new report titled “The Road to 5G is Paved with Fiber.”

The report also makes a case for why the FBA believes fixed 5G as the only connection to a home will not be the norm.

Fiber Deployment Forecast
In the report, the FBA spells out the assumptions that drove its fiber deployment forecast and cites sources for those assumptions:

  • While macrocells are roughly .5 to 25 miles apart, 5G will require small cells located between 200 and 1,000 feet apart
  • To deliver gigabit peak speeds to each user, the minimum downlink speed to each small cell will need to be 20 Gbps and the uplink peak data rate will need to be 10 Gbps
  • 5G may require 60 small cells to cover one square mile
  • The top 25 U.S. metro markets cover approximately 174,000 square miles

The 1.4-million fiber-mile forecast could be on the low side if multiple carriers want to build competing networks, the FBA notes.

Bearish on Fixed 5G
“We do not believe fixed 5G to the home – as the only connection to the home – will become the norm,” the FBA argues in the new report.

The author notes that home network connections may need to support multiple 4K and soon 8K video streams, hundreds of in-home internet-connected devices and multiple virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) users, which will require higher bandwidths than can be delivered by 5G under current development standards.

Additionally, the report argues that the millimeter wave signals that will be used for some 5G deployments do not penetrate exterior walls and would require a receiver attached to an exterior wall, requiring additional hardware costs and ongoing energy and maintenance costs. It’s worth noting, though, that results from early 5G trials are showing that the technology is not as limited as wireless experts initially expected it to be and both AT&T and Verizon have ambitious plans for fixed 5G.

Other interesting points from the FBA report:

  • An autonomous car might generate and consume about 40 terabytes of data during eight hours of driving
  • Fully networked VR/AR need bandwidth of 500 Mbps to 4 Gbps per user