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5G Wireless Competitors for Wireline Broadband

Many nations across the globe are eager to welcome additional, readily available and competitively priced, broadband internet access services. The Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) market is expanding to fulfill the demand for high-speed broadband connectivity for both business and consumer segments.

Fifth-generation (5G) FWA, a powerful platform providing an alternative broadband service offering, will be accelerating the FWA market. According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, the FWA market will exceed 180 million subscriptions and generate $70 billion in revenue in 2026.

The 5G FWA market will then account for 40 percent of the total global FWA market.

5G Wireless Broadband Market Development

Since 5G deployments continue to accelerate, operators are taking advantage of the 5G technology to provide high-capacity FWA services. High-speed and low latency supported by 5G networks enable providers to offer an attractive alternative to fixed broadband services in the areas where fiber-optic broadband doesn’t reach.

"5G FWA services can be deployed faster and at a lower cost compared to installing Fiber to the Home (FTTH). Faster time-to-market at a lower CAPEX is the key advantage of FWA deployments to expand the service coverage and boost adoption," said Khin Sandi Lynn, industry analyst at ABI Research.

Quickly progressing 5G rollouts in North America and Western Europe is expected to drive the 5G FWA market as mobile network operators offer 5G FWA in the areas where FTTH is not available.

Considering the size of the DSL user base in North America and the low FTTH penetration in Western Europe, the opportunity for 5G FWA service is significant. However, despite limited fixed broadband penetration in emerging markets, delayed 5G deployments will result in 4G LTE being the dominant FWA service.

According to the ABI market assessment, in 2026, North America and Europe combined will likely represent nearly 60 percent of global 5G FWA subscriptions.

Most of the 5G FWA deployments at this moment are using mid-band. However, mmWave is of increasing interest since the higher bandwidth available in mmWave bands can support FWA broadband speed competitive to fiber-optic and DOCSIS technologies.

Verizon is the early adopter of 5G FWA service in mmWave. Other mobile network operators including U.S. Cellular and Fastweb in Italy are also planning 5G FWA rollouts using mmWave.

Although mmWave supports promising capacity, operators are likely to deploy a mix of mmWave and mid-band to balance speed and coverage. The choice of wireless radio spectrum will depend on the market requirements such as bandwidth demand and population density in the targeted area.

Outlook for 5G Broadband Applications Growth

Besides selecting the right spectrum band to fit the market demand, setting strategies to efficiently monetize FWA services is crucial for telecom service providers. Forming FWA packages that fit bandwidth and data demand, and bundling with value-added services, can increase adoption rates.

"Service providers should also explore innovative services to capture revenue creating opportunities, such as cloud gaming, high-resolution video streaming, AR/VR based applications for entertainment and healthcare. The ability to offer such services can fuel demand for 5G FWA services as well as enable service providers to grow revenue," Lynn concludes.

That said, I'm somewhat hopeful government regulators of telecom services will encourage mobile network operators to compete more effectively with the incumbent wireline service providers. In many nations, including the United States, a wireline operator duopoly of telco and cable broadband access providers have little incentive to lower prices or increase capacity to subscribers.

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