GSA has been tracking the FWA broadband market to determine the evolving extent and nature of availability of services based on LTE or 5G technologies around the world. The number of network operators delivering FWA services varies widely by region, as Figures 3 and 4 show.
There are more operators marketing FWA services in Europe than any other region, particularly in the 27 countries that make up the EU, which has 38 commercially launched 5G FWA networks. An operator’s decision about whether to offer services will depend on various factors: how well covered with fixed-line broadband services the country or territory is; whether there are many remote regions with little to no broadband availability; whether that operator provides a fixed network at all and how advanced that network is from a technology perspective; and whether its rivals have introduced a FWA service. Where one operator introduces such a service, its rivals often quickly follow.
FWA Service Speeds:
Operators are often opaque about the FWA service speeds their LTE and 5G customers should expect. We believe this is because actual network performance depends on distance from cell towers, speed of movement or local interference — from walls or other physical or electronic objects — and other factors.
Operators often do not provide speed information or are deliberately vague talking about the types of speed that LTE, LTE-Advanced and 5G can theoretically provide, mentioning the maximum theoretical speed a customer might get (in a perfect scenario), mentioning speeds measured by third parties or, occasionally, offering average speed information.
GSA collected information about the fastest download speeds quoted by operators for their FWA services where data was available. The maximum speeds promoted for LTE FWA services range from 1 Mbps to 2.5 Gbps. The average of the marketed maximum peak download speeds that GSA identified was 173.3 Mbps, up significantly from 155.2 Mbps in November 2022 (based on maximum speed data for 333 operators, up from 317 operators identified as promoting their LTE FWA speeds in November 2022).
Data on 5G FWA maximum download speeds was collected from 72 operators (compared with 36 in June 2021). Quoted peak speeds ranged from 10 Mbps to 5400 Mbps in the downlink, with half of them sitting in the 250Mbps to 2300 Mbps range. The average 5G FWA maximum peak download speed identified by GSA is 1077 Mbps, up significantly from 875 Mbps in November 2022 and from 863 Mbps in June 2022.
Where information was made available to GSA, the average or typical peak download speed marketed to customers was lower at an estimated 31.8 Mbps for LTE networks, compared with 32.7 Mbps in November 2022 and 38.5 Mbps at the end of 2020; and just over an estimated 236.2 Mbps for 5G FWA services, down from 248.3 Mbps in November 2022 and up from 147 Mbps in November 2020. It should be noted that the sample sizes of operators quoting their average speeds were much smaller than the sample sizes of those quoting maximum speeds, at 35 for LTE and 14 operators for 5G, and that some quoted average ranges (where we used the midpoint in the range).
The promotion of LTE and 5G networks as a mainstream mechanism for the delivery of broadband services to homes and businesses is now well established, with lots of services available from network operators, supported by a wide range of devices from many vendors.
FWA services are being offered as an alternative or complement to fixed broadband; the nature of the message is dependent on whether an operator already owns a large fixed broadband network it wishes to continue to sell.
As more operator networks are upgraded to LTE-Advanced, as more 5G networks are built out and as more (particularly 5G) CPE devices are commercialised, GSA expects the number of FWA services to rise. This study will be updated in November 2023