mmWave takes centre stage in 2024 (Reader Forum)

As 2024 progresses, the momentum behind mmWave fixed wireless access (FWA) technology shows no signs of slowing down. 2023 witnessed several milestones proving mmWave’s potential to deliver faster data speeds, lower latency, and higher bandwidth compared to other wireless technologies. With expanded global deployments and diverse new use cases, mmWave FWA is capturing the attention of operators and policymakers worldwide.

Three key trends will shape its trajectory over the next 12 months:

#1: The U.S. will reinforce its leadership

Enthusiasm for mmWave in the U.S. market remains. Major operators like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have been bullish on the technology’s ability to significantly boost network capacity and speeds in congested and suburban areas alike. As FWA deployments proliferate nationwide in 2024, mmWave will continue driving transformative opportunities for businesses and consumers, leveraging enhanced fixed broadband connectivity. Operators are investing heavily in mmWave infrastructure and customer premises equipment to capitalise on these opportunities.

Buoyed by these successes, the U.S. is poised to extend its global leadership in 2024. As digital connectivity unlocks new possibilities, the reliable low latency of FWA opens up innovative use cases. At 60GHz, mmWave is emerging as the ideal complementary solution to fibre by tapping into unprecedented spectrum capacity.

#2: Global markets join the mmWave migration

With the U.S. validating mmWave’s prowess over recent years, international markets are eager to replicate that success story in 2024. The Asia-Pacific region is particularly motivated to challenge America’s dominance in this space.

Countries like South Korea, Japan and China have positioned themselves at the vanguard of next-generation connectivity to support booming technology and manufacturing sectors. Comprehensive national strategies involving public-private collaboration, investment incentives and more are catalysing mmWave adoption. Projections indicate FWA connections across Asia-Pacific will more than triple by 2029, with the region’s share of global FWA rising from 38% to 46%.

Emerging markets are getting in on the action too. India’s telecommunications giant Reliance Jio recently launched its JioAirFiber FWA service spanning eight major cities, including Delhi and Mumbai. Despite the country’s rapid economic growth over recent years, a reported 56% of the population regularly experience connection disruptions and speeds lower than promised or paid for. As such, the country currently only has 35 million broadband subscribers, although growth is expected. Leading players in the market recognise mmWave’s ability to quickly proliferate multi-gigabit connectivity nationwide, which is just one of the reasons why Jio has acquired 26GHz spectrum to unlock even higher speed tiers.

#3: Regulatory tailwinds gather strength

Beyond escalating industry investment, regulatory policies will prove pivotal in shaping mmWave’s growth trajectory this year. With capacity constraints looming and digital inequalities persisting globally, government directives governing next-gen mobile rollouts are imminent. I expect directives aimed at requiring operators to utilise mmWave more substantially in underserved areas, as well as in meeting minimum speed requirements that are nearly impossible to attain in non-urban areas without this technology.

Despite these abilities, the picture is mixed. A number of E.U. institutions have continued to back FWA to plug fibre gaps, and regulation is soon likely to follow to ensure the bloc meets its ambitious gigabit goals. In the UK, however, Ofcom recently proposed making a large amount of mmWave spectrum available across the 26 GHz and 40 GHz bands for use of mobile technology. 60 GHz FWA can deliver high-speed broadband to non-urban areas at a fraction of the cost of fibre, while it also has a reduced installation time compared to other methods of broadband delivery. Reallocating this spectrum would setback bridging the digital divide in underserved communities — resulting in industry leaders urging Ofcom to proceed with caution.

The stage is set for mmWave to deliver on its boundless potential in 2024. With clear technical advantages and compelling use cases proven worldwide, the conditions are ripe for the technology’s transformation from promise to ubiquitous solution across the globe. Regulators, businesses and consumers have ample reasons to be excited about mmWave’s increasingly bright future.

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