The next stage of FWA growth has already begun, as a panel of operators, analysts, chipset and equipment vendors attested at the 4G/5G FWA Industry Summit held on 13 November as part of the Global Mobile Broadband Forum.
“After years of rapid development, 4G/5G FWA has become one of the top choices for home broadband networks,” said Will Zhang, the president of corporate strategy department at Huawei. “Today there are 406 4G and 40 5G FWA networks launched and more than half of mobile carriers have launched FWA. There are now 100 million subscribers worldwide. Based on Huawei's market analysis, 4G/5G FWA will grow by a compound annual rate of more than 30% in the next five years.”
Carriers are gaining business benefits
“With the Covid-19 lockdowns putting never before strain on both our networks as well as our capacity to see and serve our customers," said Fabricio Martinez, who has overseen the launch of 5G for Zain in Saudi Arabia. "But we have not only managed to survive – but actually thrive in this environment. Zain’s aggressive approach to gain 5G customers through standalone & family plans bolstered by superior coverage has helped operator achieve the strong growth."
The home is the focus for most 5G FWA deployments. “It was a new initiative for us to start a family oriented business,” said Arief Pradetya, the vice president of fixed-wireless broadband business at Indonesian mobile operator Telkomsel. “We don’t talk about the technology, customers just want a hassle free product and good experiences for the services they use.”
Wang YaoBing, Vice President of 5G Product Line at Huawei, believes that FWA has got huge potential with 5G:“ 5G's wide range bandwidth feature and Massive MIMO technology provide ultra-fast speed and tremendously large cell capacity. It allows FWA's user experience to be similar to that of FTTH connectivity users, while also enabling both MBB and FWA users to benefit from an excellent user experience on the same network.”
Dr Mustafa Karakoc, the head of access network architecture at Turkcell, detailed how the carrier’s Superbox brand is adding subscribers utilising the company’s MIMO technology to deliver 1.4Gbps over LTE. “Since 2018, we’ve been providing fiber-like internet services to households using LTE,” he said. “We have reached 550,000 subscribers for FWA over 4.5G in 24 months and we support people working from home, entertainment and education services.”
It’s not just about improving speeds to homes as users work from home, learn from home and have to stay at home for entertainment during pandemic-related lockdowns, there’s money to be made. “There’s a good amount of demand for improved home broadband and the incremental revenue increases that presents,” said Peter Jarich, the head of GSMA Intelligence. “FWA is important for reducing the coverage gap and there is broad momentum. FWA is about more than access, it’s not just the home; it’s the phone, it’s the IoT devices, it’s about the services which are where the extra value comes from.”
Value to the Country and country continuously support FWA
These new revenues will help carriers increase revenues but also have economic impacts on the countries they operate in.
“In order to bring the power of 5G services to more people in the Kingdom, 5G FWA development will be essential,” noted Mohammed Aljnoobi, Director of Frequency Planning at the Communications & Information Technology Commission (CITC). “Considering the convergence of fixed mobile technologies, regulatory frameworks should serve all kinds of services. This can be done through strong planning and the licensing of sufficient wireless spectrum, which will in turn support 5G services at lower prices while connecting more homes than ever before.”
More mature ecosystem
With the arrival of 5G, FWA is entering a new rapid development phase and fast future growth is reliant on the rapidly maturing ecosystem. “Demand drives FWA growth but growth doesn’t happen until we have the ecosystem and the mass market which is where we are now,” said Joe Barrett, the president of GSA.
A key stimulus for this is the arrival of devices which are now widely available. There are now 58 5G FWA vendors and Barrett reported that GSA is tracking 117 5G devices. These, coupled with the increased roll-out of 5G and the maturing ecosystem, are fuelling the roll-out of 5G FWA.
By collaborating through initiatives such as the 5G and LTE Fixed Wireless Access Forum that has been newly formed by the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), vendors and operators can bring solutions to market more quickly and enable operators to introduce new services.
Yoyo Chen, the chief marketing officer of Tozed Kangwei, applauded the industry’s efforts to date, pointing out that her first sale of FWA customer premise equipment five years ago was for 100 pieces and now deals are for millions of devices. However, she warned the industry needs to continue to work together to address testing duration, uncertain requirements and poor network compatibility.
“Cellular solution is the most cost effective and reliable connection solution for residential areas with above 200 people. Network vendors and terminal vendors are also trying to reduce E2E cost for rural area coverage. It's a good time for operators to discuss with the regulators about the sub 1GHz spectrum for the uncovered communities around the globe.” Said Zhang YiQu, General Manager of WTTx Product Line, Huawei.
The Forum is welcoming new partners and calls on more carriers to deploy FWA in order to engage in the new era of wireless home broadband.
This content is sponsored by Huawei.