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Fixed wireless and LEO satellite broadband are the best options for unserved and underserved locations, according to a new study

Low-Earth orbit (LEO) and Fixed wireless access (FWA) satellite broadband services appear to be best suited for locations that are underserved or unserved by terrestrial broadband, according to recent performance data. In its review of confidential data from Comlinkdata as well as its Tutela business, MoffettNathanson came to a conclusion.

T-Mobile’s Home Broadband (provided through fixed wireless), as well as Starlink (SpaceX’s LEO-centered satellite broadband service), were the subjects of that investigation. Network performance data for the ISPs of Comlinkdata’s, including fixed wireless carriers, was used to create the performance analysis. Tutela, a firm bought by Comlinkdata in the year 2019 with access to the global panel of over 300 million smartphone users, is one example.

Tutela discovered that the T-Mobile’s Home Broadband service’s median download speed was about 20 Mbit/s, while the Starlink’s median download speed was 35 Mbit/s, according to the statistics. While they both fell short of top six US cable operators’ median download speed of 42 Mbit/s and the top four ILECs’ median download speed of 41 Mbit/s, they “were as good as or even better than the VDSL, and considerably better than DSL,” according to MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett’s Q3 2021 report on broader trends affecting the US broadband industry.

Download rates in the 90th percentile (that Tutela regards as generally reflective of the greatest speeds that customers might experience with the day-to-day apps) for T-Mobile Home Broadband were 46 Mbit/s as well as 63 Mbit/s for Starlink, according to the statistics.

“These were as excellent as or better than VDSL, and much better than DSL,” Moffett wrote, “but fell well short of similar measurements for cable and fiber.” T-Mobile Home Broadband had 4 Mbit/s download speeds in the 10th percentile (indicating the “worst scenario” network connection), while Starlink had 12 Mbit/s. Starlink’s performance in this group was “surprisingly strong,” Moffett said, matching Cable and outperforming fiber, while the T-Mobile Home Broadband’s performance was comparable to VDSL.

In terms of latency, T-Mobile Home Broadband had a median delay of 42 milliseconds, slightly higher than Starlink’s 36 milliseconds – and both below the 50-millisecond barrier that may pose problems for the real-time apps like video calls, VoIP calling, or online gaming, as per Tutela. “By and large, the Comlinkdata/Tutela network performance results confirm the conclusion that, while these services are substantial improvements over substitutes in underserved regions, their competitiveness now versus more powerful terrestrial alternatives is much more limited,” Moffett stated.

Fixed wireless options will improve, according to the analyst, especially as Verizon begins to integrate the C-band spectrum to the 5G Home offering. T-Mobile is progressing “very carefully with respect to the network loading, in an effort to restrict the number of the subscribers per cell, as well as even per cell sector,” according to Moffett, referencing a recent poll from the Wave7 Research’s Jeff Moore implying that T-Mobile is progressing “very carefully with regard to service loading, in an effort to restrict the number of subscribers for each cell, and perhaps even per cell sector.”

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