5G FWA on upward trajectory but global growth patchy

A slew of studies into the comms market have shown that fixed wireless access (FWA) has been one of the fastest growing and key use cases for 5G networks, presenting a compelling alternative to fibre connections particularly in regions where laying physical cables is impractical or cost-prohibitive. Now, research from mobile trade association the GSMA has found that commercialisation of 5G FWA is rising sharply.

The 5G FWA: state of the market report has found that 5G FWA commercialisation, led by US players T-Mobile and Verizon, is on the rise with 131 fixed broadband service providers launching services across 64 markets in 2024.

The US is the largest 5G FWA market globally, with fast adoption in the consumer and business segments over the past two years. As a lower cost alternative to FTTP/B (fibre-to-the-premises/business), 5G FWA has proven to be an attractive way for US operators to offer fixed broadband services in unserved/undeserved areas, where there is limited or no competition. The GSMA believes that the share of a population living in such areas will be a key determiner of the addressable market in other countries.

In addition to the US, countries such as Australia, Austria, Germany, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia are expected to exceed 5G FWA 10% household penetration by 2030.

5G technology was driving renewed interest in FWA networks in general, offering speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G FWA and closing the gap with traditional broadband technologies like fibre and cable. 

Overall, the trade body predicts the number of 5G FWA connections across 70 countries will increase by 358% between Q4 2023 and Q4 2030, representing an increase from 17.3 million connections to 79.2 million.  

A key driver for the growth is the “exponential” increases in connections expected by the GSMA, in particular, increasing consumer demand. For the third year, 5G FWA represents a leading consumer use case across eight major geographies, including China, France, Germany, the UK and the US. Consumers are seeing 5G FWA as an appealing alternative to ageing xDSL networks and cable broadband, especially for high-speed home broadband in hard-to-reach rural areas.

Another boost to market penetration was coming from All large global 5G network infrastructure providers actively promoting 5G FWA roll out, viewing it as a way operators can more quickly monetise the significant investment spend in 5G networks. The key players were Ericson, Huawei, ZTE and Nokia. Respective government initiatives were also actively backing the shift from legacy technologies, increasing the availability of 5G FWA devices.

Yet going forward, the survey cautioned that there was a mixed outlook for 5G FWA adoption. GSAM predicts that even though 5G FWA will have the second-highest level of net additions of all fixed broadband network technologies between 2023 and 2030 after FTTP/B globally, the speed of 5G FWA growth will vary significantly by country.

Specifically, household penetration of 5G FWA will grow above 10% by 2030 in countries such as Australia, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the US. In most other countries, 5G FWA penetration will be below 10% by 2030, with various countries in the low-single digit figures.