BARCELONA – Fixed wireless 5G has been praised at Mobile World Congress this week, but it has also taken a beating from critics who call it a “niche” use case. According to Joakim Sorelius, head of 5G and RAN Architecture for Ericsson Network Products, though, fixed wireless can be tied to mobile 5G more closely than one might think.

In a Wednesday interview, Sorelius told Wireless Week operators are still trying to figure out how fixed access can be applied to mobile, but noted nodes that are first used to serve fixed customers could eventually serve mobile customers over time.

“We see fixed wireless access as one in an interesting subset of the mobile broadband use case,” Sorelius reported. “It’s mobile broadband but made a little bit less mobile from the end user perspective, but from the network side it’s very similar."

Sorelius acknowledged end user device form factors are quite different in fixed and mobile, with mobile focusing on small size and battery while customer premise equipment for fixed offers more design freedom and simplicity thanks to a built in power plug, an antenna that can be placed separately, and – obviously – a lack of movement.

But on the networks side, Sorelius said the two 5G technologies aren’t so different. Even though the fixed connection is stationary, engineers still have to account for changing conditions – like weather and passing vehicles – like they do with mobile applications. And as with mobile, he explained, you still need to have beam tracking and a dynamic network for fixed wireless.

“The products we are building now and we are testing - they are all built with a mobile use case in mind,” Sorelius commented. “That’s in our DNA to actually build products for mobile networks.”

Sorelius also said a shift to mobile 5G is woven into current 4G expansions and upgrades as well. Operators and vendors, he said, are trying to bring as many 5G technologies – like massive MIMO and beamforming – to 4G as possible, and indicated Ericsson is working hard to make sure 4G radios that go out today can be 5G radios down the line.

Additionally, Sorelius noted that 4G densification today is setting the stage for an infrastructure that is suitable to add 5G nodes later on.

While some have pushed back against what appears to be a lot of “hype” around 5G, Sorelius said the innovation timeline is actually quite tight.

“It might seem like several years down the line, but in order to meet those (2019, 2020) deadlines with commercial products – both infrastructure and devices – we need to keep the pace up,” he said.