FWA has limited deployments, many supporters, and great potential

Ericsson’s Mobility Report forecasts FWA (fixed wireless access) connections will “show strong growth of 17% annually through 2027.” That compares to anticipated wireline broadband growth over the same period of only 4%.  The Ericsson report states that 57 network operators have deployed FWA commercial networks.  Finnish telco DNA says FWA is its most popular broadband offering.

Ericsson says Latin America and North America are markets where FWA will play a role in closing the digital divide. Africa may also be promising because of its large rural population and the limited alternatives.

GSMA Intelligence is also enthusiastic about FWA. In a recent blog post it described FWA “as one of the most promising 5G use cases,” providing “an incremental opportunity to maximize the value of existing network assets.”

So is Dell’Oro Group’s Jeff Heynen.  He wrote in an IEEE Techblog post, “We estimate that the total number of 5G FWA devices shipping to operators this year will easily exceed 3 million units and could push 4 million units. The vast majority of these units will be to support sub-6Ghz service offerings, though we also expect to see millimeter wave units, as some operators use a combination of those technologies to provide both extensive coverage and fiber-like speeds in areas where the competition from fixed broadband providers is more intense. Overall, however, we expect volumes first from sub-6GHz units this year and into next year, followed by increasing volumes of millimeter wave units beginning in the latter part of 2022 and into 2023.”

Not to be outdone,  an Accenture analysis commissioned by the CTIA argues that 5G FWA can serve as many as 43% of rural households.

Light Reading’s Robert Clark writes:

Currently fixed wireless, using either 4G or some other technology, accounts for fewer than 100 million worldwide subscribers.

The challenge for 5G, as for earlier generations, is that wireless doesn’t always deliver the best performance or the strongest business case.

Philippines’ Globe Telecom is a case in point. GSMA Intelligence lauds it as a “great example” largely because it launched its 5G network two years ago with a FWA service called Air Fiber.

But two years is a long time, especially when that period includes COVID-19, and we now find that Globe has shifted away from FWA to actual fiber.

Globe’s total fixed wireless subs fell 17% sequentially in Q3 while FTTH subs grew 35%, the company said in a filing. Total home broadband revenues grew 39% thanks to “the accelerated digital habits of the Filipinos brought about by the pandemic.”

China, the global 5G champion with 450 million users, is also indifferent to the possibilities of fixed wireless. You would think this nation with a rural population of some 530 million and vast sparsely settled regions would be a prime market for FWA, but its home broadband priority is gigabit fiber.

Geography is likely the main reason for limited 5G FWA take-up worldwide. 5G is strong in countries already well-served by fiber. Those markets where operators are likely to grow FWA are still in their early stages.


We believe that 5G FWA has great potential.  That is because no standard 5G core network is required and there is no roaming between carriers.  As such, non standard/operator specific private 5G SA core networks can be deployed that can deliver a range of 5G core enabled services, e.g. network slicing, automation, security, MEC, enhanced network management.

However, URLLC in the RAN and in the core network must be standardized, performance tested, and implemented in trials. Then deployed in production networks before the various 5G FWA industrial use cases can be effectively deployed.




Dell’Oro: 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) deployments to be driven by lower cost CPE



2 thoughts on “FWA has limited deployments, many supporters, and great potential

  1. “With a growth rate of 20 daily subscribers, Frontier has the largest LTE CBRS fixed wireless network in the United States today,” BLiNQ boasted in a new case study on the deployment.

    “Frontier expects to continue utilizing BLiNQ solutions to provide this connectivity and is looking to expand their wireless networks with new innovations from BLiNQ in 2022.”

    Frontier Communications has agreed to be the first big customer of Federated Wireless’ new Spectrum Exchange. The product will allow Frontier to potentially purchase 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum leases – that’s noteworthy considering the company bid on CBRS licenses during the FCC’s auction last year but didn’t win anything.

    Frontier has made little mention of its dabblings in fixed wireless. For example, during the company’s most recent quarterly conference call, executives discussed at length the company’s ambitious fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) buildout plan – to expand to a total of 10 million fiber locations by the end of 2025 – but made no mention of fixed wireless.

    “Frontier is a fiber-first company, and our focus remains on building fiber to 10 million locations by 2025,” the company said in response to questions from Light Reading. “In some cases, we use fixed wireless technology to deliver broadband to a small portion of our customer base in rural communities.”

    T-Mobile and Verizon are expanding their own fixed wireless Internet services, partly with an eye toward obtaining government funding for buildouts in rural areas. Verizon officials have described fixed wireless as a “killer app” for 5G.


  2. FWA represents “a big growth opportunity for us,” Verizon CEO Vestberg said today at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference. Ahead of a future national offering that’s expected to reach an addressable market of 50 million to 70 million households over time, FWA today (offered via 4G and 5G millimeter wave) represents a small but growing piece of Verizon’s business. Verizon added about 50,000 FWA subs in Q3 2021, ending the period with a grand total of 150,000.

    About half of those customers are new broadband customers and half of that group are completely new to Verizon. “It’s a great subset of customers getting in there,” Vestberg said. When C-band is added to the mix, Verizon can target the service to more households and turn up its “marketing machine,” he added.


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