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5G Fixed Wireless Access Gains Momentum

Broadband internet access is an essential enabler of the Global Networked Economy. National, regional, and local government economic development efforts are being supported by new telecom service provider investment in modern infrastructure.

The upside growth opportunities in urban and rural areas could be significant, based on recent market research findings.

5G Cellular Services Market Development

5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) allows Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to provide Quality of Service (QoS) offerings with higher speeds and unlimited data, creating a demand for 5G FWA, which will continue to grow over the next few years.

According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, 5G FWA subscriptions will reach 72 million by 2027, representing 35 percent of the total FWA market in 2027.

Although LTE FWA services have already been widely deployed worldwide, they often cannot provide the speed needed to compete with wired broadband connections.

5G FWA is set to offer data rates rivaling the range of fiber optic networks, making it a competitive alternative to wired broadband solutions.

"FWA is one of the few use cases that utilize 5G Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (mMIMO) networks to their full extent, with a typical monthly utilization that could be as high as 1TB per subscriber," said Fei Liu, industry analyst at ABI Research.

Many MNOs that have already launched 5G are expected to offer FWA services, driving 5G FWA market growth. This is just the beginning of what is believed to be an evolving trend. Both developed and emerging markets benefit from 5G FWA.

For example, providers in North America, Western Europe, and the Asia-Pacific regions are all driving new 5G FWA deployments.

In North America and Western Europe, MNOs are using 5G FWA to compete with DSL broadband services. Major U.S. operators, like T-Mobile, see a huge opportunity with 5G FWA because two-thirds of its residential customers living in urban and suburban areas are dissatisfied cable customers, making up a significant amount of its 5G FWA customers.

In Western Europe, EE UK launched 5G FWA in 2019 and plans to cover 90 percent of the UK market with 5G by 2028. Fastweb in Italy launched 5G FWA in 2020 and plans to cover 12.5 million homes and businesses by 2025.

Moreover, there is also growing market interest in the Asia-Pacific region as Reliance Jio eyes 100 million subscriber homes through 5G FWA.

Outlook for 5G FWA Applications Growth

According to the ABI assessment, MNOs should launch 5G FWA and utilize their network capacity to make additional revenue. However, they must be vigilant on how many FWA subscribers they can support, and which type of service they wish to offer (best effort or QoS).

In the long term, MNOs need to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques such as Machine Learning (ML) to evaluate their network resource, network capacity, and wireless spectrum to ensure a steady 5G FWA growth.

"When the 5G FWA service starts to challenge their network capacity, these MNOs may have to deploy millimeter wave (mmWave) to guarantee the quality of their FWA services and overall network capacity," Liu concludes.

That said, I'm eager to see how this market development continues across the globe, as more communities are able to reap the many benefits of wireless broadband infrastructure deployments.

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