Hailed as the first big hit in the 5G industry after the smartphone decades, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) has already made big waves in North America thanks to FWA’s wide-ranging services backed by medium-band spectrum.
To be sure, Neville Ray, president of T-Mobile Networks of America, has made absolutely no effort to hide his excitement at FWA’s un-carrier growth, even though some in the cable industry have called FWA a “parking lot” for future cable subscribers.
The service’s success also appears to have caught some industry forecasters by surprise. In fact, the November 2022 edition of Ericsson’s Mobility Report includes an updated forecast for FWA connections, and is now expected to reach 200 million a year earlier than before.
It is estimated that FWA connections will reach 300 million in 2028, of which approximately 80% will be 5G. In 2022, the number of deliveries is expected to reach 100 million.
Peter Johnson, executive editor of the Ericsson Mobility Report, said FWA forecasts have been significantly revised due to the announced plan by an operator in India to serve 100 million homes with 5G FWA services.
Here, Jonsson appears to be referring to Reliance Jio, which in August revealed a plug-and-play Jio AirFiber device that will connect to Jio’s 5G network to provide a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.
Ericsson also noted that nearly 40% of new 5G FWA launches over the past 12 months were in other populous countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria and the Philippines. “So we see growth potential in those countries,” Johnson said.
Richard Müller, Senior Market Analyst, Business Area Networks at Ericsson, pointed to another big benefit of rolling out FWA at scale in a populous market like India: “It also potentially lowers price points on 5G CPE…that will benefit the market.” the entire world.”
Mueller added, “From a historical point of view… Fixed wireless access has been talked about over the last two generations of cellular… But so far, it turns out it’s not really that big… With 5G and the advanced 4G that we have now, operators can It actually delivers the capacity needed to compete with other broadband technologies. We see that kind of potential for this technology.”
Möller and Jonsson point out that FWA connection numbers do not represent the actual number of FWA users, as many people rely on a single connection within a single household. Mueller indicated that about 800 million to 1 billion users could be supported by this technology in 2028.
Overall, Ericsson research found that out of 310 service providers worldwide, 238 (or 77%) have an FWA offering. The company added that in the past 12 months, the number of service providers providing 5G FWA services has increased from 57 to 88.
In addition to FWA, the most popular 5G consumer services launched by service providers are enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), games and some AR/VR-based services.
Broadband The Internet of Things is taking over
The FWA intake estimate wasn’t the only adjustment made in Ericsson’s latest report: Jonsson said the forecast has also been updated for cellular IoT “based on market drivers.” While estimates for total cellular IoT connections haven’t changed, “we have a different mix here,” Johnson said.
Mueller explained that LTE Cat-1 devices are increasingly complementing narrowband IoT and Cat-M, and broadband IoT and critical IoT are increasing their share of total cellular IoT connections.
“We’re still talking about strong growth, we’re talking about 2, 3 billion connections here. But it’s not going that fast. And that’s a market that has to do very, very much with China. Half of that market is China. So the development there pretty much dictates the change in outlook.”
Ericsson notes that LTE Cat-1 devices, which support 10 Mbit/s downlink and 5 Mbit/s uplink speeds, are increasingly being used in a variety of use cases. Hence, its outlook for the broadband IoT sector has been revised upward. By the end of 2028, approximately 60% of cellular IoT connections are expected to be broadband.
5G is going up
One forecast that hasn’t changed is the expected number of 5G subscribers in 2022, though Ericsson seemed somewhat surprised that current macroeconomic challenges didn’t dampen acquisition numbers this year.
The number of 5G subscribers is still expected to reach 1 billion by the end of 2022. However, Mueller noted that the use of 5G networks could have been greater without the economic and geopolitical challenges that affected supply chains.
“There’s still a huge amount of phones being sold in the world, and the most advanced smartphones sold today will be 5G, so when subscribers upgrade, they get a 5G subscription and a 5G phone. So we’re getting strong penetration despite the fact that smartphone sales are down 10 % This year “.
Global 5G subscriptions are expected to reach 5 billion in 2028, accounting for 55% of all mobile subscriptions. The Ericsson report notes that uptake of 5G subscription is faster than that of 4G, with 5G expected to reach 1 billion subscriptions two years before 4G. 5G is on its way to becoming the dominant subscription mobile access technology in 2027.
—Ann Morris, Contributing Editor to Light Reading