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The ‘secret sauce’ for 5G Monetization: FWA is Reshaping Markets, Opensignal Says

2024-06-07 15:36:00| Source:Rcrwireless

High-penetration FWA areas actually have better performance than low-penetration FWA areas, Opensignal found

5G Fixed Wireless Access has “reshaped” the broadband market in the United States, movingmainstream adoption and intensifying competition, according to new analysis from Opensignal. And while there have been concerns about the impact that FWA will ultimately have on network capacity and performance, the company found that high-penetration FWA areas actually have better performance than low-penetration FWA areas.

“5G FWA services have been on a dramatic growth trajectory in the U.S., absorbing all broadband subscriber growth in the market since mid-2022 and amassing more than 600-700 thousand net adds per quarter,” Opensignal said in a new blog post. “This is despite the USA being a mature broadband market with nearly 97% broadband adoption and modest household growth.” It then went on to declare: “FWA is the secret sauce for 5G monetization.”

The two primary FWA players in the U.S. are Verizon and T-Mobile, with more than 5 million and 3 million subscribers respectively, and tens of millions more potential customers in their wireless service bases to sell FWA to. “For both operators, 5G FWA has been an opportunity to compete for fixed broadband subscribers without making massive investments to build widespread wireline broadband infrastructure,” Opensignal said.

Additionally, the crowd-sourced testing company found that although T-Mobile US and Verizon have added millions of 5G FWA subscribers since 2021, their mobile networks have continued to see 5G speeds improve rather than get slowed down by all that additional traffic—due in large part to the huge swaths of midband spectrum that are available them through T-Mobile US’ purchase of Sprint and its 2.5 GHz holdings, and Verizon’s massive C-Band investment.

“Despite adding more than eight million 5G FWA subs using 400+ GB per month of data since Q1 2021, the overall mobile network experience on T-Mobile and Verizon’s mobile networks has not been compromised,” Opensignal said. “On the contrary, their average 5G download speeds have almost tripled since Q1 2021, when T-Mobile started reporting on its FWA subscription numbers, and have seen gradual and steady quarterly increases.”

Opensignal cautioned that speed isn’t the only factor in FWA user experience, though, and it looked at consistency of FWA and mobile services on both Verizon’s and T-Mo’s networks.

“We would expect low-FWA penetration areas to see better mobile and FWA performance because of less load on the network. However, our data demonstrates the opposite trend — high-FWA penetration areas scoring better for mobile and FWA performance than low-FWA penetration ones,” Opensignal said, adding that based on its “consistent quality” metric, “performance in high-FWA penetration areas is also better than the overall performance for both T-Mobile and Verizon’s FWA and mobile services.”

The resilience of mobile networks in the face of FWA growth isn’t the case everywhere that FWA is in play, Opensignal noted, pointing out the examples of Reliance Jio in India and Zain in Saudi Arabia. While Jio sees “no discernible impact” on users from the addition of FWA, Zain “seeing the additional load on its network from FWA having a greater influence on mobile users’ experience, depending on the time of day or the level of FWA penetration,” Opensignal said in the blog post.

While fixed wireless broadband isn’t new as a technology, the company added, 5G has meant “huge improvements in the quality of network services,” that put it on competitive footing with wired home broadband and increased options for a significant number of consumers and enterprises. Opensignal found through analysis of FWA Wi-Fi networks that the percentage of housing units with two or more options for high-speed broadband providers (cable, fiber, or FWA) has increased from 50% in the first quarter of 2022 to 78% in the fourth quarter of 2023—an increase of nearly 40 million homes.