It seems early investments from Verizon and others (like AT&T) in fixed wireless 5G broadband are set to pay off.
According to a new report from SNS Research, service revenue from fixed wireless 5G subscriptions will hit $1 billion by the end of 2019. This, the firm says, will be largely driven by early commercial rollouts of the technology from Verizon and AT&T. From there, the market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 84 percent between 2019 and 2025. Service revenue is expected to climb accordingly to more than $40 billion by the end of the forecast period.
There’s been a bit of debate among U.S. operators about the value of fixed wireless deployments of 5G technology. At Mobile World Congress earlier this year, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray dismissed the approach as a “niche” application. But Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam contends the technology offers the company the chance to massively expand its broadband and TV footprint at a minimal cost.
The SNS report backs up McAdam’s assertion that fixed wireless 5G deployments can be completed at a “miniscule” cost, noting the technology can reduce the upfront cost of establishing last mile connectivity by as much as 40 percent when compared to a fiber-to-the-premises approach. The strategy can also significantly reduce launch timelines by dropping the need to lay cables to each site, the firm observes.
SNS points out that the fixed wireless approach is, of course, suitable for urban areas, but can also be used to deliver last-mile broadband connectivity in rural regions. The latter hasn’t escaped C Spire, which back in May teamed up with Phazr on fixed wireless tests at its Mississippi headquarters. At the time, a C Spire spokesman said the trials were “part of our ongoing efforts to bring the benefits of next-generation 5G and fixed wireless technology to consumers and businesses in our region – all with the goal of helping solve a huge economic problem: how to efficiently and cost-effectively deploy fiber-based services in rural, underserved areas, which comprise the majority of our service area.”
Cambridge Broadband Networks (CBNL) Founder and CTO John Naylon at Mobile World Congress this year suggested fixed wireless broadband has the potential to not only supplement but perhaps replace traditional cable offerings altogether within the next 10 to 15 years. Though classic cable might remain as an entry level tier, Naylon said it’s likely fixed wireless will be the choice for premium broadband services. More on his thoughts here.
Trials of fixed wireless technology from dominant players Verizon and AT&T are already well underway. Verizon launched customer trials of fixed wireless 5G service in 11 cities back in February, and AT&T has launched a fixed wireless 5G trial in Austin that delivers ultra-fast broadband alongside its DirecTV Now video product. Both carriers appear to have honed in on 28 GHz as the band of choice, but AT&T has also dabbled a bit higher at 39 GHz.
AT&T actually launched a commercial fixed wireless broadband product back in April, offering speeds of at least 10 Mbps. The carrier said it is working to bring fixed wireless access to a total of 17 states this year; that service will presumably be upgraded with 5G speeds down the line.
Maine-based broadband provider Redzone Wireless in January deployed what it dubbed its “5Gx network,” offering fixed wireless broadband via 2.5 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum. Redzone President Jim McKenna told Wireless Week in May the company “has identified a significant market opportunity to partner with both regional and national technology and telecommunications companies,” and is eyeing expansion outside of its home state. More on that here.