CO - Techinnovation

4G/5G Fixed Wireless Access: A Critical Revenue Growth Engine 

4G/5G Fixed Wireless Access: A Critical Revenue Growth Engine 

In studying key success factors of solutions, it can almost always be shown that the underlying concept was not new. These underlying concepts can be centuries old; however, what makes them successful is timing and need. The same can be said of fixed wireless access or FWA to tech junkies. Today, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, words like “market disruptor” and “life changing” have been uttered to describe FWA. GSM Association Intelligence (GSMAi) and many others in the telecoms industry acknowledge that while FWA is not a new concept, timing and need are contributing to its rapid growth.

FWA has been a solution offered on 4G networks for years. Both Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) and GSMAi have about the same estimate of how widespread it is. To date, 4G FWA has been launched by an estimated 406 mobile operators in 164 of the 195 countries in the world. In the remaining 31 countries, there is pent up demand for fixed wireless access-based solutions. 4G FWA is not new, so what is making FWA a focal point for mobile operators now? The answer lies within the combination of additional unique capabilities of 5G and the disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is creating urgency for digital solutions to ensure that we can stay in touch and continue our daily lives in the new normal as effectively as possible. In 2020, the spotlight has been on healthcare and education due to the pandemic and national lockdowns. Both verticals are driving 5G and, therefore, 5G FWA because of 5G’s capability to address enterprise needs.

FWA was the first use case for 5G when it was launched in 2018, initially with pre-standard 5G. 5G FWA offers faster rollout and onboarding, i.e., reducing deployment time from weeks to less than one day; faster download speeds, i.e., up to 100 Mbps; and the enticing possibility of reducing cost to serve. Download speeds of up to 100 Mbps at affordable pricing in a world where the average fixed broadband speed is still well under 100 Mbps is a unique selling proposition. Therefore, it is not surprising that 5G FWA has been touted to potentially reduce the cost of mobile broadband by up to 25% if supported by massive MIMO and high-performance, in-house end-user devices or CPEs. In Japan, Softbank utilized high-performance CPEs to enlarge cell capacity, resulting in FWA speed of up to 261 Mbps. The highest speed exceeded 350 Mbps in some areas, with an average speed between 40 Mbps to 50 Mbps. In Saudi Arabia, Zain deployed its 5G network in October 2019; within a year, its 5G FWA services had gained tens of thousands of subscribers, resulting in the growth of Zain’s ARPU. Zain’s 5G solutions ARPU is now 4-5 times more than its non-5G solutions with ARPU of USD 19. Mobile operators are increasingly reaping the benefits of deploying 5G FWA solutions from a performance and economics standpoint.  

COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and triggered the urgent need to enhance and upgrade digital infrastructure. It has accelerated the use of technology and is transforming the world. With COVID-19, connectivity needs to be ubiquitous and reliable. This is now a critical and vital need in the new normal as broadband is being used on a global scale to address the COVID-19 pandemic. 4G and 5G FWA help address gaps in supply at the right price points. They also expedite digital transformation by redefining access technology to enable the necessary market disruption. This is why mobile operators have launched packages to support local governments in their fight against COVID-19. Due to COVID-19, the telecoms industry has witnessed subscriber and revenue growth for 4G and 5G FWA services. Taking a broader view, it can also be said that COVID-19 has played a key part in putting 4G and 5G FWA in place to meet today’s critical needs and to be ready for the digital world of tomorrow. 

Most companies hope to create market disruption. It does not happen often, but, when it does, it leaves a lasting impression on the company and end users. However, most mobile operators with FWA are still in the stage of revenue generation from geographical expansion. In the telecoms industry, which is known for, on average, marginal revenue growth, getting excited about projecting the growth potential of 160 million households by 2025 is normal. Nevertheless, mobile operators have managed to grow broadband revenue by rolling out FWA. Globe in the Philippines is a good example. Between Q1 2020 and Q3 2020, Globe acquired 1.4 million new FWA subscribers, bringing the total to 2.78 million FWA subscribers. FWA is now the main technology for 80% of its total home broadband subscribers and, encouragingly, corresponding revenue for Globe’s FWA services between Q1 2020 and Q3 2020 increased by 22% compared to the same period in 2019. Another mobile operator, Turkcell, is increasing market share in the home and enterprise markets with its Superbox FWA offering. By the end of 2019, there were 323,000 Superbox subscribers, representing a tenfold growth rate in a year.

There is still room for growth beyond connectivity. The early launches of FWA met specific pockets of need. The potential for FWA to enable market disruption is tremendous, especially as we now have the standards enabling network slicing on 5G networks and the launch of the new iPhone 12 that supports 5G. High-speed broadband for indoors and outdoors on a single network with a single service provider at an affordable price is possible with 5G. Mobile operators worldwide are taking bold steps to leverage this. Zain in Saudi Arabia is migrating ATMs from VSAT to mobile technology. This move could trigger large cost-structure shifts. Meanwhile, Telkomsel in Indonesia is talking about smarter, faster and more reliable solutions in anticipation of 5G in Indonesia. Going forward, 5G FWA paired with new devices and lower-cost CPE can drive innovation and growth opportunities, e.g., with new fixed-mobile convergence or FMC solutions. Seamless mobile gaming that is no longer confined to the indoors with fiber can be monetized with a blue ocean strategy. 

Recognizing the potential for FWA, local governments and regulators are taking steps to include FWA in their national agendas. It is encouraging that some countries have already incorporated FWA into their national broadband plan. However, we need more countries to get on board and consider the broader context. Regulators worldwide need to change their mindsets to consider mobile and fixed broadband in the same context to enable adequate competition for connectivity and solutions. To succeed with fixed broadband, unlimited broadband is critical and having sufficient spectrum to offer unlimited broadband is a necessity for mobile operators. Sufficient spectrum, particularly for suburban and rural areas, needs to be allocated, and licensing regimes need to be updated. The Saudi regulator has allocated mid-band spectrum at 2.3, 3.6 and 3.5 GHz to enable 5G and 4G FWA in the kingdom. Australia is planning to auction 26 GHz spectrum for 5G in March 2021. Optus is considering the spectrum for 5G FWA. With mobile operators armed with ample spectrum and 5G, we will soon see the telecoms industry aggressively revisiting FMC solutions. 

Mobile operators have always aligned closely to meet country needs as benefits are reaped manifold. To put it simply, it makes good business sense for mobile operators to support national agendas, so they do so willingly. As governments strive to bridge the digital divide, FWA by mobile operators is playing a big role in poorer countries and regions. With FWA services, Dialog increased household broadband penetration from 9% in 2013 to 26% in 2019, successfully closing the digital divide and enabling 0.8 million households with high-speed broadband. From 2013-2018, 4G FWA contributed to 60% of the net household broadband additions. In terms of user experience, in 2019, Dialog introduced Per Day Home Broadband for prepaid customers to cater to light broadband users. With connectivity and the ecosystem of 931 LTE FWA devices offered by 88 vendors and 84 5G FWA devices offered by 53 vendors as of June 2020, solutions designed with an acute understanding of needs can reach their full potential. 

The pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together. The introduction of 5G and the onset of COVID-19 have played a part in creating the masterpiece that has yet to be fully unveiled. Contrary to popular belief, the launch of the iPhone 12 is not a signal that new solutions will suddenly crowd the market. I am a believer that if it is going to work, the innovation should have already begun. What we are waiting for now is the handshake of enablement. As a tech junkie, I find the suspense and anticipation of the future thrilling. With 5G FWA growing rapidly, the world’s remaining regulators must take the necessary steps to enable FWA in their countries, and the industry ecosystem must further develop much-needed innovative solutions. All of this will work together to make FWA a critical revenue growth engine. 

  • Quah Mei Lee
    Quah Mei Lee
    Associate Director with the Frost & Sullivan ICT

    Quah Mei Lee is an Associate Director with the Frost & Sullivan ICT practice. She leads Mobile & Wireless Research for Asia-Pacific and focuses on telecoms and payments strategy. Supported by her expert team, she drives thought leadership in telecoms and payments strategy and mobile digital services research.

You May Also Like

Install These Free Security Tools Now!
Install These Free Security Tools Now!

Have you heard of intrusion detection systems? Also known as IDS, this software is often used to det...

Crowdfunding drives  unprecedented efficiency
Crowdfunding drives unprecedented efficiency

Crowdfunding has become the center of attention in the field of financing. It is also an increasingl...

Everything As a Service
Everything As a Service

Transition from Capex economy to Opex Economy World is in a transition from Macro to Micro. Granula...

IoT in Malaysia – 2019 Predictions
IoT in Malaysia – 2019 Predictions

The year 2014 is when Malaysians started to Google the term “IoT” and ever since, the hy...

The business case for 5G
The business case for 5G

As of 2018 ,33 MNOs have been involved in 5G trials within Asia Pacific, accounting for 44% of 77 tr...

A New Face On Digital Transformation: Engagement Innovation
A New Face On Digital Transformation: Engagement Innovation

Whether we believe it or not we are in the fourth industrial revolution – The Digital Revoluti...

Technology & Competitive Data Analysis More Money – More Competition; everyone wins
Technology & Competitive Data Analysis More Money – More Competition; everyone wins

Technology & Competition – More Money, Better Deal for Consumers & Companies – H...

Anatomy of Fintechs that’s redefining Financial services business models.
Anatomy of Fintechs that’s redefining Financial services business models.

On a weekend in 2013 during monsoon I invited my friend and his family for a dinner at my place. It ...

Blockchain Taxation
Blockchain Taxation

World has paid a heavy price for trust, transparency, controls and accountability. Globally there i...

Why Is CDR / CDNR So Important?
Why Is CDR / CDNR So Important?

Addressing the Fundamental Deficiency in Today’s Mainstream Cyber Security Strategies From Det...

CIO Business leadership - shifting from tech to business leadership
CIO Business leadership - shifting from tech to business leadership

CIOs are no longer technocrats, they are business enablers and crucial part of organisation. CIOs sh...

Ideas and Opinions | 5G as an Enabler of Smart Cities
Ideas and Opinions | 5G as an Enabler of Smart Cities

When 5G comes to mind these days, we think of “is this REALLY it?” and “have we re...

Lessons in Machine Learning
Lessons in Machine Learning

More organizations are using machine learning for competitive reasons, but their results are mixed. ...

The Changing DNA of the CIO CIO as Business Enabler
The Changing DNA of the CIO CIO as Business Enabler

The idea that the role of the CIO has now gone beyond technology and innovation related issues, and ...

Digital Indoor System: Critical Infrastructure for Digital Economic Transformation
Digital Indoor System: Critical Infrastructure for Digital Economic Transformation

Digital Indoor System: Critical Infrastructure for Digital Economic Transformation   Developme...

Today's Digital Miners
Today's Digital Miners

Today's Digital Miners I guess by now everyone of us who have read an article or two on digital...

Digital Transformation Readiness Test for Banks
Digital Transformation Readiness Test for Banks

Digital Transformation Readiness Test for Banks The questions banks need to try to answer to test ...

What is Machine Learning
What is Machine Learning

What is Machine Learning? According to Tom Mitchell, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University has d...

Transformation of industry verticals through 5G – Focus and Look Indoors 
Transformation of industry verticals through 5G – Focus and Look Indoors 

Transformation of industry verticals through 5G – Focus and Look Indoors  Now that 5G is...

Humanize Technology - back to the basics of serving human needs, humanly
Humanize Technology - back to the basics of serving human needs, humanly

Humanize Technology - back to the basics of serving human needs, humanly The subjects of Digital Tr...

Creating the foundation for Sustainable Innovation
Creating the foundation for Sustainable Innovation

Creating the foundation for Sustainable Innovation In 2011, Marc Andreessen famously proclaimed tha...

About Tech Data Diversity And Inclusion
About Tech Data Diversity And Inclusion

About Tech Data Diversity And Inclusion I am excited about attending the Hispanic IT Executive Coun...

Digital Transformation: Customer Centricity & Intimacy
Digital Transformation: Customer Centricity & Intimacy

Digital Transformation: Customer Centricity & Intimacy It was inspiring listening to IMD Profess...

Is Industry 5.0 putting humans back in the center
Is Industry 5.0 putting humans back in the center

Industry 4.0 focused on the machines. Is Industry 5.0 putting humans back in the center? I was on a...

Importance of IT Resilience
Importance of IT Resilience

Importance of IT Resilience Disclaimer: The posting written here is solely of my own comment and ...

Implementing a SaaS Solution – The 3 Major Technical Challenges
Implementing a SaaS Solution – The 3 Major Technical Challenges

So when are you planning to implement a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution? Very soon, if not alr...

So you want an #Innovation Hub?
So you want an #Innovation Hub?

Innovation, Design Thinking, Digital, Disruption, Agile, Transformation - these are new buzz words t...

The Unsung Hero; The Data Scientist
The Unsung Hero; The Data Scientist

It is quite likely you are wondering ‘what on earth’ am I on - for cooking up such a tit...

How POC projects made me a better Project Manager
How POC projects made me a better Project Manager

How did I get here? Project Management is a tough job. We need to keep a track on budgets, timeline...

How Data and AI can help in COVID-19 crisis
How Data and AI can help in COVID-19 crisis

Since the first report of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China, it has spread to at least 100 othe...

Building thriving business partnerships with Open API
Building thriving business partnerships with Open API

Apple and Google recently collaborated to assist in enabling contact tracing and reducing the spread...

The Future of Indoors with Digital Indoor Systems
The Future of Indoors with Digital Indoor Systems

Digital Transformation, 5G, and COVID-19 have triggered further growth in indoor traffic Digital tr...

Seizing Opportunities in the ICT Sector
Seizing Opportunities in the ICT Sector

The Increased Pace of Digital Transformation Automation, digitalisation, artificial intelligence (A...

CoVID19, Digital, ML
CoVID19, Digital, ML

CoVid19 hit us and has now created the “new Normal” in terms WFH, Video conferences, bal...

Do we really need CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs?
Do we really need CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs?

Why CMOs and CTOs are all you need to succeed in today's world This is my first article in a se...

Cinématographe by the Lumière Brothers & History of AI
Cinématographe by the Lumière Brothers & History of AI

The Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, French inventors and the pioneer manufacturers...

Avenues To Expedite The Incorporation Of 5G Into Industry
Avenues To Expedite The Incorporation Of 5G Into Industry

5G has been launched in Asia Pacific. South Korea, China, the Philippines and other countries have b...

Big Data Machine Learning IoT and PI
Big Data Machine Learning IoT and PI

In the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), an enormous amount of sensing devices collect and genera...

Asia’s Plan To Leverage 5G Is Missing A Regional Strategy
Asia’s Plan To Leverage 5G Is Missing A Regional Strategy

The day the world’s first commercial 5G services promised a “great leap” is still ...

Learning from #COVID19…Would remote working be the new normal?
Learning from #COVID19…Would remote working be the new normal?

Musings of a Technology Evangelist In the past few months, we have all learnt many new terms&hellip...

Principles of Sustainable Cybersecurity
Principles of Sustainable Cybersecurity

In past few years the annual rate of cybersecurity breaches has almost been doubled, and as a result...

Data Governance a key element for Digital Transformation
Data Governance a key element for Digital Transformation

For the last few years, corporate environment, used to speak and hear lots of financial/management t...

Stay Connected With Us