Both T-Mobile and Verizon appear to have excellent timing in regard to their fixed wireless access (FWA) initiatives. They’re advancing FWA right when the U.S. government is poised to spend billions to close the digital divide in America.
Speaking at a FierceWireless 5G virtual event this week, Kaley Gagnon, VP of emerging products at T-Mobile, said there are a synchronicity of events that are propelling FWA — the pandemic and government funding. “We’re all living in this right now, and so thinking of waiting multiple years for access to high-speed internet choices, I think we’ve got some great winds at our back right here and that providers are investing massively in these networks right now,” said Gagnon.
She also noted that fixed wireless deployments are relatively quick and inexpensive compared to wired broadband deployments.
In April, T-Mobile announced its Home Internet service as a replacement for cable, emphasizing rural and small town areas that are in dire need of new choices.
Gagnon said T-Mobile sees two different classes of opportunity for FWA. “The first one being what we would consider the left-behind markets,” she said. “These are markets where customers really have no options or really quite poor ones. These are places where we can make some real progress in closing the digital divide.”
The second opportunity is in limited competition markets where customers have choices, but generally only one high-speed option.
Gagnon said that according to data T-Mobile looks at, over 50% of U.S. households could fall into one of those two categories. “So you start to see across the country huge opportunity,” she said.
In terms of the types of communities that are ripe for FWA, T-Mobile is targeting underserved areas of rural America, remote areas with challenging geographies, and lower-income neighborhoods in urban and suburban areas. “Really, this opportunity is kind of both on the access side as well as the affordability side,” said Gagnon.
Claude Aiken, CEO of WISPA, also spoke on this week’s Fierce panel. He said the members of WISPA are pretty thrilled that there’s so much attention being put on FWA. “It’s been really gratifying from my perspective to see the industry focus on this opportunity especially since our association has members who have been doing this for decades using a variety of different spectrum, a variety of different equipment,” said Aiken. “But to see this really become a growth segment in the mind of a lot of the larger players has just supercharged the opportunity.”
T-Mobile and Verizon both have home FWA offerings as well as business FWA.
Verizon’s FWA for business
Today, Verizon said its 5G Business Internet, which is an FWA offering, is now available in parts of 47 cities across the U.S. New cities just recently added are: Gresham, Oregon; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Nashville, Tennessee.
"The expansion of 5G Business Internet is ahead of schedule, and we will continue to add availability in new cities throughout the year, but this is just the start," said Sampath Sowmyanarayan, chief revenue officer of Verizon Business in a statement. He added that the upcoming deployment of Verizon’s new C-band spectrum will be a major catalyst for 5G fixed-wireless growth.
Verizon’s 5G Business Internet includes professional installation and is an alternative to cable internet.