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Service provider success in the US

Service provider success in the US

How US providers compete with dual-play broadband strategies

Service providers in the US have successfully delivered 5G growth for mobile and fixed broadband. This market is being shaped by five Tier 1 service providers who are expanding beyond traditional boundaries.

Key findings

Broadband providers become more competitive with dual-play (fixed and mobile) broadband strategies.

5G mobile service providers capture more than 90 percent of fixed broadband net additional subscriptions.

Cable service providers capture more than 40 percent of mobile net additions.

In 2023, the 5G penetration of mobile broadband subscriptions in North America surpassed 60 percent1 and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) captured over 90 percent of fixed broadband net additional subscriptions. A key part of the success of 5G in North America has been data plans that enable 5G providers to compete with dual-play broadband strategies.

Cable providers have expanded beyond fixed broadband and offer wireless services. This cellular offering relies on Wi-Fi first when a user is in a home or an office, a cellular mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) component when outdoors and adding Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS)2 in areas with high cellular traffic. As a result, the two largest cable providers have captured 43 percent of mobile net additional subscriptions.

5G providers have expanded into fixed broadband with FWA in three different spectrum band types. In total, 5G has captured over 90 percent of fixed broadband net additional subscriptions, with cable in a single digit percentage and fiber growth merely compensating for the copper decline.

The net additions represent a mix of customers looking for a more affordable offering for two broadband services they already have and customers adding fixed or mobile to one existing service.

The three major mobile service providers in Figure 6 have all invested in early 5G network builds have a strong focus on expanding mid-band coverage and capacity. Data plan prices and values typically encourage upgrades to more valuable plans, with extra attention paid to keeping existing smartphone customers. This is reflected in low churn numbers for postpaid monthly subscriptions varying between 0.8–0.9 percent.

By providing different fixed broadband plans, 5G service providers can meet most consumers' broadband needs and offer a value proposition based on simplicity: easy installation and activation, with easy-to-understand bills. Choice is often limited to selecting a suitable peak rate, with a discount when subscribing to fixed and mobile broadband from the same provider. These plans are proven to work well in urban and suburban areas and are poised to play a major role in closing the digital divide in the rural US, where digital infrastructure is limited.

The successful adoption of more valuable FWA plans shows how far it is already possible to take 5G revenue growth with non-standalone (NSA) architectures. The next step of the journey in the US is to unlock the new capabilities introduced with standalone (SA) architectures, network slicing and open network APIs.

Implications for the rest of the world

US mobile Tier 1 service providers have proven that dual-play broadband strategies are key in attracting new revenues from FWA and defending the mobile customer base. Not having a fixed access network or owning licensed mobile spectrum have been blockers in the past.

Today, in a 5G world, borders between these are more vague, and the competitive landscape is more complex, affecting both fixed and mobile service providers.

The US market shows that FWA can open doors to attracting fixed broadband revenues and use 5G as the foundation for all digital services.

Figure 6: Five large US providers compete with dual-play broadband strategies

Mobile net additions – rolling four quarters

Fixed broadband net additions – rolling four quarters

Source: Quarterly reports (Q4 2022 to Q3 2023) for Tier 1 US fixed and mobile broadband service providers.

1. Ericsson Mobility Report (November 2023).

2. CBRS is a unique shared type of mid-band spectrum, available in both licensed and unlicensed versions.

Read other articles in Ericsson Mobility Report Business Review 2024
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