Five Things About Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), The Future Of Broadband

The most significant competitor to broadband internet brought to the home or business via DSL, cable or fiber with Wi-Fi connecting devices is 5G for home service, also known as Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). FWA in conjunction with 5G is a scalable, cost-efficient high speed broadband technology, with a wireless connection providing the “last mile.” While the tower is connected to a larger network with wires and/or radio links. No wires are required to the customer’s premises, only a wireless receiving device. Here are five things to know about the transformative FWA market.

1. Substitute, not supplement

Regulatory advocates and cable providers have maintained that wireless broadband is a supplement, not a substitute, for wireline broadband. However with increasing capacity and competitive prices, consumers find that FWA satisfies their broadband needs. There are already some 7 million FWA households in the US. For the first quarter of 2022, T-Mobile just reported 1 million FWA customers, a year after launch. Verizon added 194,000 FWA net subscriptions, 2.5 times the fourth quarter 2021 level. AT&T has half a million FWA customers. In local markets across the country, dozens of small and medium-sized providers occupy the FWA space. FWA is soon expected to account for 10 percent of all US broadband connections. By contrast, FTTH comprises about 20% of all US connections today.

2. Spectrum

FWA is compatible with any radio frequency, but rollout will depend on operators’ access to frequencies and existing wireless services. Frequencies used include 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.1GHz bands for rural and suburban areas and 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz for urban areas. While the US is considered a world leader in commercial spectrum management, federal usage of spectrum is largely unchanged for the last century. Although the US has enjoyed record-setting spectrum auctions like the C-band, it lags on sufficient mid-band spectrum relative to other modern nations. This scarcity has made private wireless providers efficient users of spectrum while federal users maintain increasingly obsolete technologies. Consider that because of lack of standards, 50-year-old altimeters can still be used in airplanes, however mobile base stations are kept up to date with international technical process.

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