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The State of 5G for Fixed Wireless Broadband

Fixed wireless broadband services based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology have been widely deployed globally, with its primary focus on areas with a poor fixed network infrastructure. Today, 5G technology opens more opportunities for the fixed wireless broadband segment. 5G supports gigabit speed broadband with ultra-low latency, allowing service providers to provide a fiber-like broadband experience without requiring the fiber-optic cables to every single household.

As operators continue to roll out 5G networks, 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 eclipse 2 million units this year, with subscription rates reaching 22 million in 2024.

The Global Rise of Fixed Wireless Access

5G fixed wireless access (FWA) has ultimately the same benefit to both operators and consumers: with last-mile fiber connectivity still well under-utilized, deploying 5G fixed wireless networks in its place will save time and costs spent installing fiber-optic lines, while providing Gigabit capacity broadband access. With the exception of China and a few other developed markets, fiber-to-the-home penetration is limited to less than 20% of total households worldwide, creating a wide opportunity for the entire 5G fixed wireless broadband market. 

After an 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 other operators that have rolled out a 5G FWA service. Several service providers worldwide — Sprint, and AT&T among them — 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 market is forecasted to increase at CAGR 71% to reach just under 7 million units in 2024.

Recommendations for Continued Growth

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 and create differentiating factors for service providers.

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. 

These findings are from ABI Research’s 5G Devices for Fixed Wireless application analysis report, part of our Video & Cloud Services research service, which includes the latest in video consumption devices, services, business models, and technologies in the end-to-end video ecosystem.