Fixed wireless access forecast 2023-2027

12th May 2023
Sheryl Miles

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) will be a major source of new revenue for operators globally over the next seven years ― but with sharp regional variations.

APAC will drive substantial FWA subscriber growth while Europe remains the leading region for revenue generation, with significant developments in Africa and Latin America in vast rural areas unserved by fixed broadband.   

This comes at a time the US is leading the field through rapid rural FWA subscriber growth, which will continue for several years and ensure the country is well ahead of others for revenue generation. Yet as saturation approaches in the US, populous APAC countries led by China and India will roar ahead in subscriber numbers.  

This dichotomy between revenues and subscribers reflects stark differences in monthly ARPU generated by FWA, as for broadband services generally, ranging from $54 in the US to an average of $7 for APAC as a whole, and barely $2 in India. Such low ARPUs pose a challenge to operators by themselves and mean that fibre can only penetrate deep into rural areas with the help of government incentives. Low ARPUs can also make FWA an attractive proposition for operators as an additional revenue source, with opportunities for follow up added value services such as video and cloud gaming.  

APAC will surge ahead over the next seven years for FWA subscriptions, with Europe a poor second, followed by Africa and Latin America as rural deployment ramps up in some countries there. North America will subside into last place regionally, despite the US enjoying strong growth currently.  

There is a very different picture for FWA revenues, however, where Europe will take a strong lead with 35% of the global $62.9 billion in 2030, followed by North America on 24% and APAC only 3rd on 16% – reflecting those low ARPUs.  

Another significant FWA trend over the forecast period will be a swing from 4G and non-3GPP approaches to 5G-based ones. That again will be very variable globally, with almost all FWA 5G by then in the USA, about half in some developing nations in APAC, such as the Philippines, and only about 22% on average in Africa.  

FWA is being driven by three parties – consumers, operators, and governments – all acting in response to rising demand and improved technology capabilities. Consumers in areas unserved or poorly served with wired broadband are demanding broadband service more comparable with those offered to their urban peers, and these can now be provided increasingly by FWA.  

Governments, in turn, want to reduce digital divides and many have been offering incentives for digital levelling-up, to remove deficiencies in rural areas. FWA is increasingly on their radars as one element of the broadband mix for underserved communities. 

Mobile operators are interested in the potential for new revenue streams or services that can exploit unused spectrum. In developing nations, as well as some parts of developed ones, FWA has emerged as the most economical option for extending broadband services to users previously denied internet access at acceptable speeds, or at all.  

The other crucial factor is that cellular networks have almost caught up with the curve of ever rising broadband expectations for performance and reliability. In developed economies this is usually in the range 30Mbps to 60Mbps, rising to 100Mbps or more over the coming years.  

This is the latest forecast in the RAN Research Archive, which now includes:   

  • Fixed wireless access – market forecast
  • Energy use of video and mobile networks – market forecast 
  • Connected cars – market forecast 
  • 5G network slicing – market forecast 
  • RAN automation – market forecast 
  • Private 5G networks and Wi-Fi – market forecast 
  • Small cells and network edge – market forecast 
  • Open RAN & Macro RAN – market forecast 
  • 4G deployments as 5G backbone – market forecast 
  • vRAN and Open RAN migration – market forecast 
  • 5G Core migration – market forecast 

Rethink Technology Research is an analyst firm that has established itself over its 21-year history as a thought leader in 5G, and all forms of wireless; the entertainment ecosystem and streaming media; the Internet of Things; and has now embarked on the energy marketplace.

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