When we first started talking about 5G, we all expected that the first installations would be “fixed wireless.” Fixed wireless, in case you don’t want to read the whole long article, puts a cell antenna on your roof and a modem in your house. Your home gets internet exactly the same way your phone does. It’s not a new idea. I remember an office building I was in having it, back in the early 2000s. However it’s just in the last few years that cell internet has been fast enough to be used for this purpose.
5G for the home makes sense.
Internet service is expensive. There are a lot of reasons. You need a lot of fiber in the ground and a lot of switch boxes in the neighborhoods. Putting that stuff in is expensive by itself. It’s even more expensive because internet service providers pay cities directly. That’s right, cities charge for the “privilege” of digging under city streets. Private citizens don’t see a dime of that money. It just goes into the city’s general fund.
Fixed wireless 5G, like satellite TV, doesn’t require city approval and there’s no need to pay for the right to lay fiber in residential neighborhoods. Sure there is the cost of putting up and operating cell towers but that’s going to happen anyway. 5G service should end up being a better deal than residential internet.
One bill. That’s all.
One of the really tough things about home internet is just paying for it. You’ll pay $70-100 a month for home internet unless you’re in a bundle deal. Then you’ll pay about the same for cell service. Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of one of those bills? With 5G fixed wireless, all your internet could come from one provider, and having it at home would probably cost no more than adding a phone does today.
This would be especially good for single people who really don’t use the home internet at all when they’re not home. Just imagine what you could do with another $1,000 in your pocket every year!
So is it coming?
Right now all the focus is on 600MHz 5G and rolling out phones that will use it. AT&T and other carriers are moving into new markets as soon as they can. In many cases they’re held back because the frequencies that 5G phones will use aren’t available in every market. They’re still being used by TV channels. It will take another year or so before all those frequencies are clear across the nation.
We all thought the focus would be on fixed wireless because we thought carriers would start with “millimeter wave” 5G first. This will be the fastest and best version of 5G. It takes a lot more power and so far we don’t know how to do it with a phone. So, a lot of people thought it would be done at home first.
But, until there’s plenty of 5G capacity to spare, I would expect the focus to be on phones. At some point we’ll see some home hardware. It will probably be used in “fringe” areas where the cell carriers don’t see a lot of competition from internet service providers. That will have an effect on satellite-based internet for sure.
But as for that dream… it’s still a dream for now.