Momentum in fixed wireless is strong and will only accelerate with 5G, leading to a fixed wireless forecast of 151 million connections by 2022. ABI Research predicts a 30% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to achieve this forecast.
Commercial 4G LTE networks are cropping up at a precedent-setting pace, while fiber-to-the home (FTTH), xDSL and a new generation of DOCSIS 3.1-based cable broadband connections now reach nearly 50 percent of households worldwide, ABI highlights in its latest Mobile Broadband Convergence report.
Fixed Wireless Forecast
The market research provider expects the introduction of next-gen 5G-certified wireless broadband networks and services (expected in 2020) will add another boost to growth.
“The arrival of 5G technology will completely transform fixed wireless broadband network deployments,” commented ABI industry analyst Khin Sandi Lynn. “Trials show that the technology’s superior performance over LTE will allow operators to deploy 5G for fixed wireless broadband service in densely populated areas.”
Current fixed LTE network connectivity is by and large being used to provide broadband access in remote, comparatively sparsely populated areas where fixed-line infrastructure is lacking. The advent of 5G will change that, ABI says.
Both AT&T and Verizon have announced plans to employ 5G technology as they roll out new fixed wireless broadband services to business and residential customers in the U.S. later this year, ABI notes.
AT&T plans to deploy fixed wireless technology to meet Connect America Fund broadband deployment requirements, said AT&T President of Technology Operations Bill Smith at a financial conference last August.
In addition to the “Big Two,” Windstream announced its own fixed wireless expansion plans in October.
Entering from outside the traditional market space, Google Fiber began shifting its strategic focus and resources away from fiber towards “gigabit” fixed wireless service provision shortly after acquiring wireless broadband provider Webpass.
“Superior capacity offered by 5G technology will benefit operators to deploy fixed wireless access in densely populated areas,” Lynn concluded. “This will enable fiber-like broadband service to support bandwidth-hungry applications without the need to install fiber-optic cables to each premise.”
Not everyone is convinced that 5G fixed wireless will work everywhere though. A recent whitepaper sponsored by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association questions whether 5G fixed wireless makes sense in rural markets, arguing FTTP is actually a lower cost solution.