The market for fixed wireless CPE is on the up, driven by growth in 5G devices, according to new figures released this week.

Mary Lennighan

September 11, 2023

3 Min Read
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The market for fixed wireless CPE is on the up, driven by growth in 5G devices, according to new figures released this week.

The data, shared by the GSA, shows strong growth, albeit from a relatively low base, given the size of the global telecoms industry. But nonetheless, the figures serve to back up some of the recent hype over FWA we have seen from the operator community, particularly on the other side of the Atlantic.

5G FWA customer premises equipment shipments more than doubled to 7.4 million last year and should reach 13.8 million – that’s 86% growth – this year, the GSA revealed, citing the results of its annual FWA CPE vendor survey. The industry body urges caution in making comparisons with its previous surveys, given that the respondents and sample size are not always the same, but points out that the 27 companies surveyed this year account for “a significant representation of the market for 3GPP-based 4G and 5G FWA devices.” 5G devices will make up 40% of all shipments this year, the GSA predicts, up from 29% in 2022.

Within the 5G category, mmWave-capable devices play a small but rapidly-growing role. The GSA forecasts that mmWave device shipments will grow by more than 70% this year to close to 800,000 units, having more than doubled in 2022 to 450,000.

Growth in 5G CPE is driving the market as a whole. The GSA survey shows overall FWA CPE shipments of 25.5 million units last year, up 12%, driven by growth in battery-powered pocket routers. Indoor and outdoor CPE still account for the bulk of the market though, with shipments rising 9% to 18.8 million units. That figure is expected to rise by 31% this year though to almost 25 million units, accelerated growth coming on the back of strength in the indoor CPE market, which should see 21.6 million unit shipments or 34% year-on-year growth.

The figures should perhaps come as no surprise given how much noise certain telecoms operators are making about the potential of the 5G FWA market and their own service offerings. As the GSA notes, telcos remain the main channel for CPE shipments, accounting for a predicted 77% of shipment volumes this year, up from 70% in 2022.

Essentially, FWA is an early monetisation case for 5G and some operators are keen to take full advantage of it. That is particularly true in the US, where operators were in the vanguard of 5G rollout and all of the big guns are now touting FWA-based home broadband services.

AT&T was the latest to push FWA, extending its 5G-based Internet Air offering to 16 new markets just last month, as well as pledging to add more locations in future.

The telco had had its toe in the 5G FWA space for a while, but was being significantly less aggressive than major rivals Verizon and T-Mobile US, the latter having shouted pretty loud about the potential of FWA for some time.

It has a point. Statistics shared by Leichtman Research Group recently showed that T-Mobile and Verizon together recorded the best part of 900,000 5G FWA net adds in the second quarter of this year, significantly more than the virtually flat cable segment and ahead of the wireline broadband market, which lost almost 62,000 customers in the three months.

The US is not the only market in which operators are turning to FWA to help them generate 5G returns, but it is probably the biggest.

As the GSA’s figures show, overall volumes are still pretty low, but if the telcos can get their customers interested in the technology then those strong CPE shipment growth rates should continue.


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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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