Fixed wireless access is by far the fastest growing broadband technology in the US and its main proponents, T-Mobile US and Verizon, look set to beat their medium-term subscriber targets, new analyst data suggests.

Mary Lennighan

August 17, 2023

3 Min Read
5G signal Communication Mast Concept
5G mobile signal Communication Mast (cell tower) Super fast data streaming concept. 3D illustration.

Fixed wireless access is by far the fastest growing broadband technology in the US and its main proponents, T-Mobile US and Verizon, look set to beat their medium-term subscriber targets, new analyst data suggests.

Second quarter figures from Leichtman Research Group show that T-Mobile US and Verizon together recorded 893,000 customer net additions for their 5G-based fixed wireless access (FWA) services in the three months to the end of June. T-Mobile is the stronger of the two with more than half a million net adds in the quarter – 509,000 to be precise – but Verizon is not far behind with 384,000.

The pair’s combined customer additions grew by almost 10% on the year-earlier quarter’s figure of 815,000, Leichtman Research noted.

That level of growth is noteworthy in and of itself. But it’s also worth pointing out that it potentially puts the telcos ahead of where they expect to be in the FWA space in a couple of years’ time.

Or, to be more accurate, where T-Mobile expects them to be.

The telco began a serious push into FWA a year ago and at the end of last year published a report on the subject, which included the prediction that it and Verizon together would have 11 million-13 million FWA customers by the end of 2025.

That’s more than two years away and a lot could happen in that time. But looking at recent quarterly customer additions, the operators are well on track to meet and exceed that figure. As it stands, they have 5.9 million FWA customers between them, according to Leichtman Research; that’s 3.7 milion for T-Mobile and 2.3 million for Verizon. Even if their quarterly additions stay flat over the 10 quarters between now and end-2025 they would still add close to 9 million new FWA customers in that time and rack up a total base of around 15 million.

“Over the last year, the broadband industry’s growth has come almost entirely from fixed wireless. And that shift is expected to continue,” T-Mobile said in its December FWA report. That statement has certainly been accurate so far.

Leichtman Research’s number show that US broadband net additions came in at 840,000 in Q2, fewer than the FWA players added alone. The figure was up on the same quarter last year by about 140,000, but many big operators lost customers; the analyst firm’s data covers the country’s largest players only, but represents around 96% of the market.

The big cable operators together added just under 10,000 customers during the quarter, which was quite a turnaround from their 60,000 net losses in Q2 last year, but was driven entirely by a strong performance from Charter. The market’s second-largest player – and it is now only a couple of million customers behind leading operator Comcast – recorded 77,000 net adds in Q2, while all of its cable rivals lost customers.

The wireline players had just as weak a quarter as they did in Q2 last year with close to 62,000 net losses. Broadband customer growth from Verizon could not offset hefty losses from AT&T and, to an even greater extent, Lumen; the latter shed 72,000 customers.

It seems appropriate then to give the last word to FWA.

“Fixed wireless services have acquired over 800,000 net adds in each of the past five quarters, accounting for about 4.45 million net adds in that period,” noted Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst at Leichtman Research Group.

There are clearly plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this market.

 

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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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