How 5G technologies could liberate fixed wireless broadband in the US
Fixed wireless broadband communication services based on long term evolution (LTE) technology have been deployed globally, focused on areas with a poor wireline network infrastructure. Now, 5G wireless technology could open more opportunities for the fixed wireless broadband segment.
As mobile network operators continue to deploy 5G network infrastructure, the commercial launch of 5G fixed wireless broadband services will accelerate in the next few years. This will ultimately drive the 5G fixed wireless Consumer Premise Equipment (CPE) market.
ABI Research forecasts that shipments of 5G fixed wireless broadband CPE will reach more than 2 million units in 2020.
5G broadband market development
5G fixed wireless access (FWA) delivers several benefits to both telecom network operators and consumers. The deployment of 5G fixed wireless broadband networks in place of last-mile fiber connectivity will save costs and time to install fiber-optic lines while providing Gigabit capacity broadband access.
"Interestingly, except for China and a few other developed markets, fiber-to-the-home penetration is still limited to less than 20 percent of total households worldwide. This creates a huge opportunity for the whole 5G fixed wireless broadband market," said Khin Sandi Lynn, an analyst at ABI Research.
After the initial launch in four U.S. cities in 2019, Verizon is now planning to expand its 5G Home broadband service in areas with a 5G mobile network footprint. T-Mobile is also planning to commercially roll out a 5G broadband service to home users with its nationwide 5G network launch.
Vodafone, Three UK, EE in Europe, and Rain in South Africa are some of the operators that have rolled out a 5G FWA service. Several service providers worldwide are also working toward the commercial launch of 5G fixed wireless broadband services.
Chipsets and device makers are also actively playing their roles in the 5G FWA space. Qualcomm has announced it has partnered with more than 30 OEMs to develop 5G FWA CPE. At the same time, device makers such as Huawei, NetComm, Nokia, and Samsung have already introduced 5G FWA CPE.
As the 5G FWA ecosystem evolves, there will be additional commercial launches of 5G FWA services and CPE. The 5G FWA CPE market will increase at CAGR 71 percent to reach just under 7 million units in 2024.
Depending on the deployment scenario, 5G FWA services will need different forms of CPE, the selection of indoor or outdoor, mmWave, or Sub-6GHz, etc. Device makers should make sure to support various form factors and specifications to meet service provider requirements.
The integration of advanced Wi-Fi features, the ability to connect to smart home devices, and in-home Wi-Fi management solutions can add value for end-users as well as create differentiating factors for service providers.
Outlook for 5G wireless broadband growth
"5G technology offers high bandwidth and ultra-low latency to attract xDSL broadband users, however, well-designed CPE with value-added features is essential to winning the highly competitive broadband game," Lynn concludes.
In the U.S. market, where wireline broadband service is expensive - relative to more progressive nations - and the telco and cable duopoly have no incentive to compete, the introduction of 5G fixed broadband offerings could liberate these captive markets and thereby create meaningful progress.
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