In recent years, the dawn of 5G and mmWave spectrum allocations has given rise to an increasingly popular broadband alternative – Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). Recent estimates from research firm Omdia suggest that FWA makes up around 3.5% of global fixed broadband subscribers, with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13% between 2022 and 2027. Unlike traditional fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks, FWA can provide fibre-like speeds using a standalone 5G network and an outdoor antenna. Indoor antennas are typically capable of reaching maximum speeds of up to 100 Mbps according to Ericsson.
A few potential use cases for FWA include bridging the digital divide in rural areas; providing temporary connection solutions when phasing out copper lines; and acting as a fast route to market entry for mobile operators or enterprises who wish to offer private 5G services without significant investments into infrastructure or assets. While FWA networks can present some short term cost savings compared to FTTH networks, there are still limitations such as line of sight issues which need addressing before it can be considered on par with optical networks in terms of long-term efficiency and reliability.
Overcoming these challenges could lead to increased uptake and greater adoption rates, thereby providing more individuals with reliable access to high speed internet connections across a range of locations worldwide. To support the growth of FWA, policymakers should consider incentivising investments into FWA networks by operators, especially in rural and hard-to-reach areas. Additionally, further research is needed to identify new ways of overcoming line of sight issues and making FWA more reliable and cost effective for end users. In the meantime, telecom companies should focus on improving the end-user experience by offering customer support and reliable connections to ensure FWA remains a viable broadband alternative. With both public and private organisations working together, FWA could be an economically efficient way of connecting the unconnected in this digital age. As such, it is clear that FWA has great potential for providing a low-cost, reliable broadband solution for the future.