Windstream is deploying 5G fixed wireless broadband, “probably at a larger scale than a lot of the larger wireless companies,” said Windstream President and CEO Tony Thomas today. Windstream fixed wireless broadband has seen particularly strong performance in states such as Nebraska and Iowa that have a “fairly flat topology” and where signals go “a long way,” Thomas said.

Windstream gets speeds of 100 Mbps using fixed wireless technology in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band, but expects to also use the technology in the millimeter wave band to deliver gigabit speeds, Thomas told attendees at an investor conference today.

Windstream Fixed Wireless
Windstream initially began deploying fixed wireless several years ago to serve business customers but more recently has begun to use the technology to serve residential customers, including those in areas where the company obtained funding for broadband buildouts through the Connect America Fund (CAF) program.

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In CAF areas of states such as Nebraska and Iowa, he said, “you can get 100 meg out there very cost-effectively,” adding that “you’re really blowing away copper infrastructure and making it irrelevant because you’re embracing this 100 meg technology.”

Thomas pointed to fixed wireless as one of several technologies, including distributed DSLAM and fiber-to-the-premises, that Windstream will use to increase the broadband speeds that the company can offer.

“You’ll find Windstream very innovative here,” he said, also noting that the company has seen 10 consecutive months of broadband growth as a result of the network upgrades it has made.

Thomas argued that Windstream is well positioned to use millimeter wave spectrum to support gigabit fixed wireless, because “we have fiber fairly deep into our network.”

Millimeter wave spectrum can support high speeds but only over relatively short distances. As Thomas explained, it’s about “how you get the last 500 feet or the last 1,000 or 2,000 kilofeet” between the customer location and the base station.

Over similar distances, copper would only be able to support speeds of 300 to 400 Mbps using bonded vectoring, Thomas said.

Windstream, he said, “has a real opportunity to use millimeter wave to get to one gigabit over a large swath” of its customer base. And while some industry players have argued that millimeter wave fixed wireless is most suitable for metro areas, Thomas said Windstream will be deploying the technology “not in the big cities” but in “fairly rural communities.”

Thomas made his comments at the Citi 2019 TMT West Conference, which was also webcast.

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2 thoughts on “Windstream CEO Eyes Gigabit Fixed Wireless, Sees Copper Becoming “Irrelevant”

  1. With clean/sufficient spectrum and line of sight, gigabit wireless is quite doable with current-gen tech. Technically if you have copper pairs you have more capacity overall, but 2 Gbps aggregate capacity shared across 50 homes is more useful than 80 50 Mbps pairs, with one or more pairs dedicated to a single home.

    And that's with loop lengths short enough that you're competing with cable. If you aren't competing with cable, you're probably sitting at 6k+ feet, so 15 Mbps per pair if you're lucky. At which point, yeah, copper's completely irrelevant if you can get line of sight between a sufficiently backhauled tower and a premise.

  2. If you have "fiber fairly deep into your network", then you should also evaluate UHF or TVWS in addition to 3.5GHz to reach the last 500 feet or the last 1000-2000 feet. Due to the physics of the TVWS spectrum, you can cover longer distances with TVWS, longer than the distances you can reach with 3.5GHz.

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