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Research Firm Says 802.11 Wi-Fi More Economical Than 5G for Fixed Wireless Access

Oppenheimer says it will cost Starry around $2B to cover 70% of the dense areas in the US with its fixed wireless service

NEW YORK — Wall Street research firm Oppenheimer says that Starry’s 802.11ax-based fixed wireless service is more economically effective than a fixed wireless service based on the 5G standard, reports

The firm said it will cost Starry around $2 billion to cover 70% of the dense areas in the United States with its fixed wireless service (which uses the latest version of the 802.11 standard) and that covering the same area would cost $35 billion to $50 billion using 5G technology—double that for providers covering the area with fiber for backhaul.

“Starry’s roadmap is much more economical than 5G fixed wireless … and speeds are comparable without the expense/complexity that accompany the deployment of thousands of 5G small cells,” according to Oppenheimer. “Starry’s deployment costs multiples less than 5G fixed wireless. Management stated generously it would cost $10K per mile to lay fiber, whereas Starry’s capex costs are $20 per home passed in dense areas.” 

Additionally, “Starry’s Beams [the company’s base stations] do not require municipal approval, as they are small (18 in. x 18 in.) unless in a historical setting. This is unlike 5G fixed wireless, for which approval is a long process,” said the Wall Street firm, quoted in the same article.

Starry uses 600 MHz of spectrum in the 37.0–37.6 GHz bands that’s largely shared between commercial and federal users, and although the FCC is still finalizing its rules for this band, the result is that Starry doesn’t have to pay billions of dollars for the spectrum.