The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has announced the launch of a working group to standardise the quickly developing fixed wireless access (FWA) segment.
While there are pockets of enthusiasm for FWA solutions growing throughout the world, success to date has been muted. Perhaps the introduction of a formal working group will add credibility and validity to the technology.
“As technology has improved, operators have been turning to mobile networks to deliver home and office broadband services, in some cases offering mobile-based services as an alternative to fixed-line broadband technologies,” said Joe Barrett, President of the GSA.
“The home/office broadband services on offer are no longer limited to mobile data subscriptions associated with mobile phones, dongles, or even MiFi devices. They now include use of mobile technology to provide the main broadband connection for a home or business in the form of a fixed wireless access services.
“In a relatively short space of time, fixed wireless broadband access has become a mainstream service offer and the formation of this new GSA Working Group is testament to the acceleration in industry activity in Fixed Wireless Access.”
Originally positioned as an alternative to traditional broadband networks and services, the sustainability of this technology has been widely questioned. There are of course niche usecases which will ensure it has a permanent fixture in the connectivity landscape, but a mainstream challenge to the status quo is almost impossible in the developed markets.
For the developed markets, usecases for rural communities, where the deployment of traditional broadband infrastructure is cost prohibitive, are attractive, as are products for customers who might not consider their current dwelling permanent in the long-run, students for example. In less developed markets, there is a very interesting usecase for FWA.
Last week, Vodacom announced the launch of 5G services in South Africa. This might be considered a mobile push by some, but when you come a partnership with Huawei with low penetration of traditional broadband infrastructure, it looks slight a play towards FWA.
As Omdia’s Dario Talmesio points out, 5G FWA offers high-capacity services which are quick to deploy, cutting out the need to dig up roads or deal with the bureaucratic nightmare which planning permission can be. The broadband market in South Africa is there to be disrupted with new technology, and Vodacom has got a running head start on its rivals.
South Africa is one market where this is relevant, but there are numerous others. Regions where ARPU is lower making ROI more difficult or bureaucracy is high making progress difficult. India is another market which comes to mind, as does Indonesia.
The GSA has currently identified 395 operators in 164 countries selling FWA services based on 4G, while an additional 30 have 5G FWA services. This is a technology which has potential to take-off in certain usecases, though this is not going to dislodge traditional broadband networks.