“FWA connections are forecast to grow threefold … by the end of 2025, accounting for 25% of global mobile network data traffic.” – Ericsson mobility report June 2020

The oxymoron “Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) on a mobile network” drew my attention in the recent Ericsson mobility report. It highlighted the limited need for mobility in many future high bandwidth applications. Ericsson predicted that data demand, driven by video, will continue to grow exponentially. However, much of this will increasingly be consumed in a stationary setting, in the home or in the office.

Covid19 not necessarily driving increased mobile usage

The mobility report highlighted the effect of Covid19 on mobile traffic in the last three months. Ericsson noted that where there was strong fixed connectivity, there had been no change, or even declines, in mobile network traffic. The increases in phone calls, messaging and video calls, during lockdown, had not driven increased mobile traffic, apart from where there was no adequate fixed alternative.

By 2025, 5G will account for an estimated 45 percent of total mobile data.- Ericsson mobility report June 2020

Clearly, a substantial segment of growth in “mobile” networks will be fixed, whether in the form of FWA or using mobile as an alternative to poor fixed networks. Wireline broadband has increasingly become a commoditised utility for most consumers, driven by price competition. It seems unlikely that FWA will be any different. Key FWA markets will be in low ARPU regions or low density rural areas in high ARPU regions. 5G is a more complex technology. Revenue from exciting new 5G use cases, alone, is unlikely to support this increased complexity and operational cost. If a large amount of the use of 5G will be FWA, and growth in static use of mobile broadband, CSPs will need to have a laser like focus on operational cost and automation. Their focus in 5G should be on becoming the most efficient providers of utility broadband connectivity..

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