The search for 5G use-cases seems to have at least one definite success, if the uptake of FWA in the US is anything to go by.

A recent study from Leichtman Research Group, previously reported on by Light Reading, claimed that nearly all of the new subscribers added by the major US fixed-line providers came, somewhat ironically, from fixed wireless access (FWA). Furthermore, the 3,170,000 FWA subscribers added by T-Mobile and Verizon in 2022 were more than four times the previous year’s total.

“Top broadband providers added about 3.5 million subscribers in 2022,” said Bruce Leichtman, of the eponymous research firm. Fixed wireless services accounted for 90% of the net broadband additions in 2022, compared to 20% of the net adds in 2021. Total broadband net adds in 2022 were slightly lower than last year, and down from about 5 million in 2020, but were more than in any year from 2012-2019.”

The total drop-off from last year would presumably have been far greater were it not for the FWA option. Indeed, old-school AT&T lost 118,000 subscribers last year, according to Leichtman. Light Reading notes in its report that other studies indicate FWA subscribers are generally satisfied with their service and, intriguingly, that most of them had switched from other forms of fixed-line service.

It has been known for a while that FWA is booming in the US but it’s good to see that quantified. This year’s MWC was characterised by the largely fruitless search for clear examples of 5G monetisation but, right now, it seems FWA is the best of them. The US is now a test-case for the reliability and scalability of FWA and these numbers may embolden CSPs in other parts of the world to take it more seriously as a 5G-derived product.

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