Fixed wireless access outlook

Fixed wireless access (FWA) connections are forecast to grow threefold and reach close to 160 million by the end of 2025, accounting for 25 percent of total mobile network data traffic globally.

Key findings

  • There were an estimated 51 million FWA connections globally at the end of 2019.
  • FWA traffic is predicted to grow to reach 53EB in 2025, accounting for 25 percent of global mobile network data traffic.
  • There will be close to 160 million FWA connections by the end of 2025, providing access to approximately 570 million individuals.

FWA subscriptions uptake

There are three main factors that drive the FWA market and the uptake of connections. First, demand from consumers and businesses for digital services continues, driving the need for broadband connectivity. Second, FWA delivered over 4G or 5G is an increasingly cost-efficient broadband alternative in areas with limited availability of fixed services such as DSL, cable or fiber. Increasing capacity – allowed by greater spectrum allocations and technology advancements for 4G and 5G networks – is driving higher network efficiency in terms of the cost per delivered gigabyte. Third, governments are fueling broadband connectivity through programs and subsidies, as it is considered vital for digitalization efforts and economic growth.

In a recently conducted study of mobile service provider offerings, 185 out of 309 providers had an FWA offering.1 Compared to December 2018, this number has almost doubled.

The limited reporting from service providers and regulators of FWA connections, combined with varying FWA definitions, results in differences in the reported number of connections globally. We estimate there were 51 million FWA connections by the end of 2019. This number is forecast to grow threefold through 2025, reaching close to 160 million.

FWA data traffic is estimated to have represented around 15 percent of global mobile network data traffic by the end of 2019. This is projected to grow by a factor of around 8 to reach 53EB in 2025, accounting for 25 percent of total mobile network data traffic globally.

Figure 11: FWA connections

Figure 11: FWA connections

Definition of FWA

Fixed wireless access is defined as a connection that provides broadband access through a mobile network enabled customer premises equipment (CPE). This includes various form factors of CPEs, such as indoor (desktop and window) and outdoor (rooftop and wall mounted). It does not include portable battery-based Wi-Fi routers or dongles.

Figure 12: Mobile data and FWA traffic

Figure 12: Mobile data and FWA traffic

FWA in the broadband context

There are approximately 2 billion households in the world. By the end of 2019, approximately 1.2 billion (60 percent) had a fixed broadband connection, and by the end of 2025 this will reach approximately 70 percent.2 In this context, FWA will represent 10 percent of fixed broadband connections. However, it is worth mentioning that FWA is also seen as a replacement option for around 300 million existing DSL connections.

Considering the number of FWA connections, many households consist of several individuals using the same connection. However, in the mobile broadband context, there are more connections than individuals. The forecast of close to 160 million FWA connections by the end of 2025 represents approximately 570 million individuals having access to a wireless broadband connection.

With the disruption caused by COVID-19, the demand for wireless household broadband has probably never been greater.

1 The 309 service providers included in the study represent 98 percent of global mobile service revenues

2 Omdia, based on Country Statistics offices and the United Nations