Revenue for 5G fixed wireless access services billed by operators will grow almost fivefold next year to reach US$2.5 billion globally, according to new predictions released by Juniper Research this week.
The analyst firm’s forecasted 480% growth rate naturally comes from a fairly low base; this year FWA revenues are set to come in at $515 million, which is a drop in the ocean compared with the trillions of dollars of operating revenue the world’s telcos generate between them annually.
But the figure suggests the start of something bigger. FWA is finally coming into its own thanks to the superior network capabilities 5G has offer – higher speeds, much lower latency, increased data processing and so forth.
Indeed, Juniper Research predicts that operator 5G FWA revenue will reach $24 billion worldwide by 2027, driven essentially by the use of the technology as a fibre replacement for consumer services.
In the data it shared Juniper Research did not comment on specific markets. However, it’s safe to say that the US, where telcos are ploughing big sums into 5G rollout, will be a key contributor here.
T-Mobile US started its 5G FWA push in May with the launch of a new consumer fixed wireless offer and accompanying marketing drive designed to poach customers from the big broadband firms. The telco moved to lure consumers away from fixed ISPs by promising to pay any early contract termination fees and with a pledge to lock in prices – a key selling point in the current economic climate. It also unveiled a new business FWA offer and new kit, but its focus was really on the consumer space.
Meanwhile, when rival Verizon shared its plans to spend $10 billion on the deployment of its C-band frequencies in March last year – a project that is ongoing – it also made it clear that fixed wireless would be a key element in its 5G strategy. Indeed, it has since started to pitch itself as a serious competitor in the US home broadband market.
AT&T is also treating FWA as a key tenet of its 5G rollout, as are telcos all over the world. India’s Reliance Jio launched a new 5G-powered FWA access point, JioAirFiber, just last month, while operators in Italy, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere are pushing hard on the technology.
Indeed, Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report, published in June, showed that FWA now accounts for a fifth of all mobile data traffic. Admittedly, that data traffic is not exclusively 5G-based. Far from it, in fact. The vast majority of the world’s 100 million-plus FWA connections use 4G or other technologies. However, the vendor’s forecasts put 5G FWA connections at around the 230 million total it expects for 2027.
All of which lends credence to Juniper Research’s prediction that we are on the cusp of rapid 5G FWA growth.
“The benefits of FWA are now comparable with services using fibre-based networks,” said Elisha Sudlow-Poole, research analyst at Juniper Research.
“Operators have an immediate opportunity to generate revenue from broadband subscriptions directly to end users by providing last-mile solutions underpinned by their existing 5G infrastructure.”
The consumer market will be key for operators, accounting for 96% of global 5G FWA revenue. But, as always, there is no silver bullet here for operators keen to secure return on investment on 5G…which of course they all are. Juniper Research’s numbers come with a warning.
Operators will have to work on compelling offers for consumers, the analyst firm points out. It’s an obvious point, but one that is all too easy to forget amidst the hype of a new technology generation. The firm advises bundling services with connectivity, such as video streaming, gaming and smart home security to boost the user experience and gain a competitive advantage against fibre incumbents.
While FWA might be the only sensible option for consumers in certain remote or difficult markets, providers of the technology will indeed have to go up against the fixed ISPs in established fibre broadband markets to take a decent revenue share.
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