Updated October 13 with additional information from Windstream
Fixed broadband wireless gained more traction today with Windstream’s announcement that a Windstream fixed wireless service will be launched in 40 markets nationwide. The service is targeted to provide speeds of up to 275 Mbps bi-directionally and to support service level agreements.
Windstream did not immediately respond to a request from Telecompetitor for additional details but apparently the offering uses a point-to-multipoint approach, as the company notes that hub capacity can scale up to 13.2 Gbps. According to the Windstream press release, the offering will supplement previously launched fixed wireless services operating at speeds from 1 Mbps to 1 Gbps.
Windstream acquired Business Only Broadband, which offered fixed wireless in several markets, in 2013. Recently Windstream launched fixed wireless service in New York in the 28 GHz band.
Fixed wireless has been around for many years as a means of providing broadband service in rural areas where equivalent-speed landline options are not available. More recently, large service providers including AT&T, Google and Verizon have launched or expect to launch fixed wireless in metro areas, with significant competitive implications.
Some of those offerings will target residential areas, but the reference to service level agreements suggests that Windstream’s plans may be primarily business focused. That would not be surprising, considering that Windstream’s strategy in recent years has been to re-invent itself as a nationwide business services provider.
That strategy, however, requires the company to rely heavily on last-mile connections from other service providers. The fixed wireless initiative announced today could play an important role in reducing that reliance.
Windstream Fixed Wireless
The Windstream fixed wireless offering will use equipment from Cambridge Broadband Networks (CBNL) that operates in the 39 GHz band. The offering will use spectrum licensed to Straight Path Communications, which according to a Windstream press release, is the nation’s largest licensed millimeter wave spectrum holder in the U.S.
The millimeter wave band includes ultra-high-frequency spectrum above 24 GHz that can support high-bandwidth service. Like Windstream, at least two other large carriers also are planning to use ultra-high-frequency spectrum for their deployments.
AT&T plans to use spectrum in the 70-80 GHz band for which the company has a nationwide license. AT&T recently entered into a CenturyLink market with competitive fixed wireless broadband service. The spectrum that Verizon hopes to use is in the 28-31 and 39 GHz bands, where Verizon acquisition target XO Communications holds licenses.
Google’s approach may or may not be different. The company has been experimenting with fixed wireless using spectrum in the 3.5 GHz unlicensed band and there is speculation that the company may deploy fixed wireless more broadly, possibly using 3.5 GHz spectrum.
Additionally the company has acquired fixed wireless provider Webpass, and intends to integrate those services into it’s Google Fiber portfolio. According to Wired, Webpass uses spectrum in the 70-80 GHz band.
Update October 13:
Telecompetitor received a response from Windstream Senior Principal Architect of Enterprise Product Access Strategy J.P. Gonzalez yesterday.
Gonzalez confirmed that this week’s fixed wireless announcement pertains only to business, not residential customers. He also noted that the offering is not a service but an access method that would support other services.
“This specific technology’s range will depend on the rain curves in any given city and be between .75 and 2 miles,” Gonzalez said.
He also noted that “[t]he capital intensity per-bit is lower in the speed ranges supported by this technology than for fiber.”