The COVID-19 pandemic has driven digitization, and it has also increased the importance and need for high-speed and reliable home broadband connections. In many cases, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is the fastest alternative for operators to meet this need. In Ericsson’s Action Trends report for the second quarter of 2021, it has updated its research on FWA retail solutions offered by global operators for the fifth time. Of the 311 operators studied, 224 offer FWA services, accounting for 72% of the global average; the percentage of operators offering FWA services has increased by 12 percentage points in the past 6 months; expected by the end of 2026 , the number of FWA connections will exceed 180 million, accounting for 20% of the total global mobile network data traffic.
From a regional breakdown, more than 50% of operators in each region offer FWA services. Ericsson said the regions with the lowest fixed-broadband penetration had grown the fastest over the past six months, namely the Middle East and Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, and Central and Latin America. These regions increased by 4 to 13 percentage points. Central and Eastern Europe has added nearly 25 percentage points since the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, making it the second-highest penetration rate globally at 84%, while Western Europe is the region with the highest FWA penetration rate at 93% .
Of the operators launching 5G services, 87% also offer FWA services (4G and/or 5G). Compared with operators that have not yet launched 5G services, FWA penetration is much higher. In countries with higher fiber penetration rates, FWA penetration rates are also typically higher.
In addition to the demand driven by the new crown epidemic, there are three main factors driving the growth of FWA connections. First, consumer and business demand for broadband connectivity continues to grow; second, FWA is an increasingly cost-effective alternative to broadband compared to fixed services such as DSL, cable or fiber. With more spectrum allocated to 4G and 5G networks and the continuous advancement of technology, their capacity is also increasing, which pushes up the efficiency of network resource use, and the cost per unit of data (gigabyte) drops significantly; in addition, 5G millimeter wave Technological innovations have expanded the propagation radius of millimeter waves from a few hundred meters to more than 7 kilometers. This opens up new opportunities to use existing network infrastructure, making 5G a viable technology for future large-scale deployments of FWA. Third, broadband connections are so important to digital jobs and economic growth that the government promotes broadband connections through programs and subsidies.
Ericsson estimates that by the end of 2020, the number of FWA connections will exceed 60 million. By 2026, this number is expected to triple to more than 180 million. By 2026, 5G FWA connections will grow to 70 million, accounting for about 40% of the total number of FWA connections. In terms of traffic, by the end of 2020, FWA data traffic will account for about 15% of the total global mobile network data traffic. It is expected that by 2026, it will grow about 7 times to 64EB, accounting for 20% of the total global mobile network data traffic.
There are approximately 2 billion households worldwide. By the end of 2020, about 1.2 billion households (60%) will have a fixed broadband connection, and by the end of 2026, this number is expected to reach 1.5 billion (about 70%). By then, FWA will account for 12% of all fixed broadband connections. It is worth mentioning, however, that FWA is also seen as an alternative to the existing 250 million DSL connections.
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