Providing broadband service for everyone is an unworldly dream, and it requires operators’ improvised action to make these dreams come true.
Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) enables operators to reuse their existing mobile networks, improve the quality of services, and provide faster and affordable connectivity.
There are several reasons why FWA has become a viable technology alternative.
Deployment is relatively easy, time to market is shorter, and it can also expand wireless broadband coverage and potentially provide more than 90% accessibility to the population.
The 4.5G and 5G network-based FWA services also have the capability to offer a fibre-like experience and enable connectivity service in those areas where fibre-based service is impractical or takes a long time to deploy.
Return of investment (ROI) is less than three years, and hence FWA can also be a more profitable proposition for operators.
“Vast areas and households in need of connections and broadband upgrades benefit the most from FWA,” says Samuel Chen, Vice President for Huawei Southern Africa region. “Furthermore, small- and medium-sized enterprises receive huge benefits from FWA too.”
During the pandemic, more than one-billion children globally have been forced to stay out of classrooms because of quarantine measures. Working from home is only a reality for service sector workers and administrators.
But not all children and workers can attend their online classes or work due to the unavailability or expenses of home broadband service.
FWA can help people continue their work and education during the epidemic without the conventional network deployment and cost barriers associated with fibre.
The benefits of FWA are recognized by operators worldwide, and numerous operators are investing in FWA in the form of lab trials, license acquisition, pilot projects, network deployments, or commercial service launches.
According to a GSA report from June 2021, FWA technology has been implemented in more than 436 networks in 171 countries based on LTE or 5G; that equates to more than half of all operators with commercial LTE or 5G networks worldwide.
There are 84 operators from Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are delivering FWA service to households and micro and small enterprises.
Even now, more than 100-million internet users in urban, suburban, and rural areas benefit from FWA. The estimation result shows that in 2021, the FWA subscriptions will reach 7million in SSA.
According to Huawei’s marketing insight, this market is expected to grow by 64% by 2025, to a total of 11.5-million subscriptions.
Fixed wireless access became one of the most significant growth drivers around the world, as seen in emerging countries such as South Africa.
The impact of 5G FWA is huge, many believe that 5G FWA will have an impact that is similar to the impact of 2G on fixed voice more than 20 years ago.
According to a financial report issued by Telkom in South Africa in 2021, its data revenue has increased a total of 41% from R8.66- billion to R12.21-billion.
Moreover, its FWA new subscriber base increased by 290 thousand in the fiscal year 2020.
Rain, in South Africa, plans to accelerate its 5G network rollout to cover an estimated 5 000 new households each day for 2021, and according to these figures, 1-million households will have 5G coverage end of this year.
Today, in this 5G era users expect ultra-fast networks everywhere, and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) are no exception.
SMEs are increasingly expanding their businesses to areas where the Internet is a must, such as e-commerce, e-payment, and a growing number of devices that need to be connected.
However, 5G’s enhanced capacity and speed also make it suitable for delivering connectivity to the enterprise where PCs, laptops, IP-phone, fax, and other work devices can be connected.
There could be particular demand for 5G FWA where offices and workspaces tend to be temporary, such as construction sites and SME premises.
The latter would benefit from positive proof-points in the home for small business owners. 5G FWA allows businesses to simply unplug the router and perform the setup process again at a new location, as long as it is in a 5G coverage area.
It is worth operators examining where FWA services fit into the rest of their already crowded business portfolio to extend their business and for more revenue opportunities.
In recent months, many operators around the globe have launched FWA services for businesses. Operator AIS from Thailand launched several 5G FWA business network products including 5G FWA Broadband, 5G FWA Corporate Internet, 5G FWA MPLS, and complementary product such as 5G FWA SD-WAN and Corporate Wi-Fi.
American operator AT&T launched 5G FWA for businesses in March 2021, described as the “First Nationwide Business-Focused Broadband Network”.
The operator positions these services as fiber alternatives, where fibre may be unavailable, or hints that there may also be cases where customers may appreciate the speeds, flexibility, and easier provisioning of 5G.
In Europe, Vodafone Germany launched FWA service for SMEs, mainly to digitals as stations by enabling cloud-based payments, mobile payments, video surveillance, Wi-Fi hotspots, electric billboards, and e-advertisement services.
VDF introduced several types of packages, which brings up to three times more revenue opportunities compared to a typical household connection.
“FWA increases the inclusiveness of broadband connections, helping deliver the benefits of technology to all mankind” this is a statement that cannot be denied. This should be the obligation of leading ICT players as well as a collective responsibility.
Today, there is still more than 7.5 billion population that are still unconnected to the digital world.
Therefore, this highlights the consistent and unwavering significance of global telecommunications operators and equipment vendors to explore the full potential of FWA as well as other connection technologies to bring benefits to everyone without wasting any more time.