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Remote Working Drives Demand for Internet Access Solutions

High-speed internet access from home is essential to participate in the Global Networked Economy. The worldwide residential broadband service market reached a subscriber base of over 1.1 billion users in 2020 -- that's a 4 percent increase from the previous year. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated demand for broadband connectivity.

The need for high-capacity residential broadband will remain, even post-pandemic. According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) will be the fastest-growing residential broadband segment to increase at a CAGR of 71 percent, exceeding 58 million subscribers in 2026.

Remote working, online learning, and virtual healthcare created new demand for high-speed broadband throughout 2020. The significant increase in the use of internet-based entertainment services also prompted broadband users to upgrade, while more households without broadband access subscribed for the first time.

Residential Broadband Service Market Development

"Increasing adoption of internet-connected devices, smart TVs, and smart home devices, as well as consumers’ media consumption through internet applications, will continue to drive high-speed broadband adoption in the years to come. In addition, many businesses are allowing remote working for some of their employees after the pandemic, which will boost the need for home broadband services even further," said Khin Sandi Lynn, industry analyst at ABI Research.

To fulfill growing demand, broadband operators are investing heavily in expanding higher-capacity broadband networks. While some cable operators continue to invest in and upgrade to the DOCSIS 3.1 specification, the cable standardization body, CableLabs, and other industry players are already working toward DOCSIS 4.0 technology.

"Cable companies are likely to stretch the life of the existing DOCSIS 3.1 standard for a few more years. However, DOCSIS 4.0 can support speeds of up to 10 Gbps downstream and 6 Gbps upstream, enabling improved customer experiences as well as the use of AR/VR or bandwidth-demanding services, which will certainly emerge in the future," says Lynn.

Similarly, telecom service providers continue to upgrade their legacy xDSL infrastructure with new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network technology. In addition, FWA services are a cost-effective alternative when the deployment of a high-speed fixed broadband network is not economically feasible.

Ongoing 5G wireless network deployment, alongside the development of extended 5G mmWave solutions, will allow mobile service providers to offer high-speed 5G FWA services in both urban and low-density areas.

According to the ABI assessment, 5G FWA services are expected to represent 4 percent of residential broadband services in 2026 -- that's growing from an installed base of less than 1 percent in 2020.

Outlook for Residential Broadband Applications Growth

As residential broadband penetration saturates the more mature markets, competition among broadband operators is likely to create challenges to maintain market shares. That's a welcomed development for subscribers since more competition should help to reduce the cost of broadband access services.

"In addition to network upgrades, broadband operators need to invest in cutting-edge software and hardware to optimize network performance and support better user experiences. Providing advanced home networking devices, internet security, and home network self-diagnosis tools can help service providers reduce churn and improve average revenue per user," Lynn concludes.

That said, I can envision a scenario where savvy broadband service providers target the work-from-home market with new offerings that address the expanding use cases of employers with a distributed workforce.

Enhancing the employee experience, while working remotely from home, can also be achieved with the introduction of digital workspace solutions that improve productivity via the secure enablement of any software app on any device.

Employers crave these modern enterprise IT solutions that help them to attract and retain top-skilled talent in an environment that's increasingly driven by the adoption of flexible working business models.

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