Covid-19 could propel fixed wireless access (FWA) build-outs around the world at a faster clip than if the pandemic hadn’t happened.
Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report released this week found that of 309 global mobile service providers, 185 had an FWA offering, a number that almost doubled compared to December 2018.
Ericsson defines FWA as a connection that provides broadband access through a mobile network via 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.
Although differences in definitions of FWA from various countries makes it difficult to know precisely, but Ericsson estimates that there were 51 million FWA connections by the end of 2019. This number is forecast to grow three-fold through 2025, reaching close to 160 million.
FWA data traffic is estimated to have represented around 15% of global mobile network data traffic by the end of 2019. This is projected to grow nearly 8-foled and account for 25% of total mobile network data traffic globally by the end of 2025.
While FWA was already growing at a steady clip prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the health crisis could propel it even faster.
“The spread of Covid-19 has prompted people all over the world to change their daily lives and, in many cases, work or study from home. This has led to a rapid shift of network traffic from business to residential areas,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Ericsson EVP and head of networks, in a statement.
According to Ericsson’s data, one-third of consumers said they plan to invest in improved broadband at home to be better prepared for a potential second wave of Covid-19. And 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.
The forecast of close to 160 million FWA connections by the end of 2025 represents about 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,” stated the report.