FWA market matures as operators look to monetise 5G

The number of operators worldwide offering 5G-based fixed wireless Internet is growing, and the services on offer are becoming more sophisticated as telcos seek to use the technology as a 5G monetisation tool.

Mary Lennighan

June 26, 2024

3 Min Read

That is one of the conclusions that can be drawn from the latest iteration of Ericsson's Mobility Report, published on Wednesday.

The vendor's data shows that while the number of telecoms operators offering fixed wireless access (FWA) services has fallen slightly in the past year – there were 241 as of April, down from 245 a year earlier – the proportion and absolute number with 5G FWA services continues to grow. 128 telcos have a 5G FWA offer, or around 53% of the total, up from around 100 in April 2023.

And as many as 40% of those FWA providers offer speed-based plans up from 27% last year, which indicates a maturing of the technology. The speed, data handling and low latency capabilities of 5G FWA have increased the attractiveness of this type of plan for telcos, offered to customers within upload and download speed parameters, that are starting to look similar to fibre and cable broadband services, Ericsson said.

"The June 2024 Ericsson Mobility Report shows continued strong uptake of 5G subscriptions," said Fredrik Jejdling, EVP and Head of Networks at Ericsson. "Enhanced Mobile Broadband and Fixed Wireless Access are the leading use cases, with signs that 5G capabilities are influencing service providers' Fixed Wireless Access offerings."

Indeed, Ericsson puts FWA as second only to mobile broadband in its ranking of 5G use cases. It remains a much smaller market segment though.

Around 300 operators worldwide have now launched commercial 5G offerings and in the first quarter of this year they collectively added 160 million new subscriptions, taking the number of 5G subscribers worldwide to 1.7 billion.

Overall, there were 130 million FWA subscribers in the world at end-2023, fewer than a third of which were 5G connections, Ericsson's data shows. It forecasts that the total will grow to 330 million by the end of 2029, of which close to 85% – so around 280 million – will be over 5G.

While that is clearly a drop in the ocean compared with overall 5G users, it makes quite a dent in the fixed broadband market, representing 18% of all fixed broadband connections.


As it stands, North America leads the FWA market, at least in terms of maturity, with four major operators together claiming 9 million customers as of Q1 this year, up from 5 million a year earlier, Ericsson notes. The market is doubtless being driven by the likes of T-Mobile and Verizon, which are heavily pushing their 5G FWA offers as a fixed broadband alternative.

The Asia-Pacific is the largest market though, based on volume, and will increase its share in the years to the end of the decade. Almost half of the global total 5G FWA customers – or 48%, to be specific – at end-2029 will be located in the region, up from 39% today, Ericsson points out.

Earlier this week New Zealand's Commerce Commission included Spark's FWA offering in its broadband monitoring report for the first time, noting that it could be useful for consumers to include the service in their comparisons when selecting a broadband provider.

Spark's Max Wireless 5G plans clocked average download speeds of 329 Mbps during peak hours, which was more than three times faster than its urban 4G FWA offer, which came in at 61 Mbps. As such, Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson described the plan as an attractive option for consumers.

"We can now see how 5G wireless broadband stacks up against the other broadband technologies we measure – something that will be increasingly important as 5G networks roll out further across New Zealand and uptake increases beyond the current total of 5,500 connections," Gilbertson said.

All markets are different. But New Zealand's experience will be mirrored to some extent in many or most regions. FWA will not become the dominant use case for 5G, but it will increasingly give fixed broadband a run for its money.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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