Tom Wang - stock.adobe.com
The status of the U.S. fixed wireless access market
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased interest in fixed 5G. T-Mobile and Verizon are battling for new subscribers, as other MNOs look to deploy services in the coming years.
Fixed wireless access is a method of providing internet access to homes using mobile technology, rather than through DSL or cable lines. With the advent of 5G, cellular fixed wireless access technology can rival cable by delivering internet at broadband speeds to homes.
Mobile network operators (MNOs) AT&T, Starry, T-Mobile and Verizon have outlined their plans for FWA deployment. T-Mobile and Verizon, in particular, are wrestling for the fixed wireless access market crown in the U.S.
Verizon kicked off its 5G fixed wireless access service in 2018. T-Mobile followed in June 2021, launching its 5G Home Internet product after testing the waters with a limited 4G fixed wireless access service.
Here's how each provider's offering stacks up.
AT&T 5G FWA
In June 2021, AT&T CEO John Stankey said he expected the company to start its pervasive rollout of fixed wireless access 5G in the U.S. in 2023. In March 2021, the operator announced it was adding fixed wireless 5G routers from Cradlepoint and Sierra Wireless to its nationwide business-focused broadband network lineup.
The enterprise fiber network already connects more than 2.5 million business locations in the U.S., AT&T said.
Starry 5G FWA
Starry, which recently went public through a merger, said its network covers over 4.7 million households in six markets. This makes Starry the largest 5G fixed wireless access player in the U.S. outside of the major MNOs. The company anticipates it will cover 25 million households by 2026.
Starry's service sends connectivity to a fixed point on the roof of a building. The operator supplies customers with internet access in their dwellings via Wi-Fi. Starry's service costs $50 a month.
T-Mobile 5G FWA
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet is currently available in 600 cities and towns across the country. The operator charges $50 a month for its fixed wireless access 5G offering if a customer uses its AutoPay service and $55 a month if not.
According to T-Mobile spokesperson Elizabeth Seelinger, T-Mobile's 5G Home Internet is currently available to more than 30 million homes nationwide. The operator provides customers with two options for gateway devices: the recently added Arcadyan KVD21 gateway or the Nokia 5G21 gateway.
"Because both 5G gateways offer the same key features and experiences, customers will receive the first device available, based on inventory levels, at the time they sign up," Seelinger said. Customers can install the gateway themselves, and T-Mobile offers an online guide for how to install and position the product.
Many T-Mobile markets operate on the company's 2.5 GHz midband 5G frequency. Because T-Mobile's low-band 600 MHz 5G covers most of America, some 5G Home Internet fixed wireless access markets also rely on the 600 MHz band.
T-Mobile said the fixed wireless access technology typically delivers download speeds between 35 Mbps and 115 Mbps, depending on factors like the available spectrum and FWA signal strength.
Verizon 5G FWA
The earliest 5G fixed wireless access contender, Verizon, has the largest fixed footprint today, covering 30 million households across 900 cities, according to Verizon spokesperson Karen Schulz. She added that Verizon's 5G Home service uses both C-band and millimeter wave spectrum.
In late 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration had concerns about the use of 5G bandwidth in airports, which caused some delays and pushback on spectrum deployment. Despite these delays, Verizon has still managed to extend its fixed wireless access offering this year, as C-band spectrum rolls out to support 5G.
Verizon plans to use the C-band spectrum to expand its fixed and mobile 5G radio holdings. By the end of 2022, the operator expects to cover up to 175 million people in the U.S. with its Ultra Wideband 5G service.
Verizon 5G Home Internet costs $50 a month for new customers. The service offers download speeds of 300 Mbps and up. Verizon delivers 5G fixed wireless access routers to customers to self-install after they purchase the service.
Fixed wireless access market growth
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated rise in remote work have accelerated FWA market growth in the U.S. Networking analysts and company reports have shown that the 5G fixed wireless access market added over 300,000 net additions in the last quarter of 2021.
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