When discussing 5G, most conversations focus purely on mobile broadband, and the advantages that lower latency and faster data transfer bring to mobile users. While mobile will certainly be a key area for 5G development, with an expected 3.4 billion 5G mobile connections by 2026, the technology is also poised to have a major impact on the fixed broadband market. The arrival of 5G could finally make so-called Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) a viable option for home broadband users.
Fixed Wireless Access – A different approach to the last mile
The connection between a premises and the rest of the network, known as the last mile, is often made using fiber optic or copper cables. 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) is an alternative method of last mile connection, involving equipment installed directly on the customer’s premises, such as on the roof or an outside wall.
The CPE uses a wireless signal to connect to the premises to nearby fixed-broadband infrastructure, and then distribute the signal to various end points across the premises using CPE, in a similar way to a modem and router used in a standard fixed line connection.
Using 5G to complete the last mile connection removes the costs and time delays associated with deploying and maintaining physical lines, as well as saving the hassle subscribers often experience when having to arrange a technician to make an initial connection.
As of August 2021, 171 FWA CPE products were commercially available, second only to the number of 5G capable phones for the number of available devices.
The potential of FWA: greater access to high-speed broadband
5G FWA holds promise for both private and business users. For private customers, 5G FWA offers an alternative to existing options that could be cheaper and faster. For businesses, 5G FWA offers the potential to make use of 5G within their operation, without needing to deploy and maintain a private network.
This is particularly useful for households that have been without access to fast fixed broadband, as physical installation is unviable, helping to reduce the share of households without fixed broadband from 68 percent in 2020 to 54 percent by 2030.
If 5G FWA can gain a steady foothold in the market, it could change permanently change the shape of the fixed broadband market.
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