Shipments of 5G FWA devices expected to double in 2022: Report

  • 5G fixed wireless access equipment shipment volumes more than doubled in 2021, according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association
  • Similar growth is expected this year as 5G coverage expands and demand for FWA services grows
  • But the majority of the fixed wireless access device market is still for 4G/LTE-only devices
  • However, vendors are increasingly focused on introducing new 5G mmWave products 
  • The findings align with recently announced predictions and moves in the fixed wireless access market

The niche 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) market is set to boom, with shipments of customer premises equipment (CPE) doubling in 2021 compared with 2020 figures, and expected to record similar uptake in 2022, according to a new report from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

According to the findings, 5G FWA CPE shipments soared to 3.6 million in 2021, a 162% year-on-year rise. This momentum is expected to continue and by the end of the year, CPE shipments are predicted to reach 7.6 million, representing more than 25% of all shipments by 26 vendors surveyed by the GSA.

Of the 5G-enabled products shipped in 2021, 160,000 were mmWave-based devices, up from 130,000 in 2020.

As the uptake for such devices is expected to continue, some 88% of vendor respondents shared plans to introduce 5G mmWave-based products in the coming years.

While the number of 5G FWA devices (which include 4G and 5G capable products) shipped in 2021 more than doubled, that sub-sector remains small, accounting for just 16% of the 22.7 million units shipped: 84% of all FWA CPE products shipped in 2021 were 4G/LTE only. 

However, the GSA noted that in 2021 the overall market declined sequentially by almost 25% due to wider component shortages and a strong 2020 comparison. The market is expected to return to growth again this year, though it’s not set to top the 30 million mark, as it did in 2020.

The findings are based on the aggregated answers collected between April and June from 26 CPE vendors that form “a significant representation” of the 3GPP-based 4G/5G FWA device market. They include Huawei, Nokia, Oppo, TCL and BEC Technologies, among others.

According to those vendor respondents, the most important trend in the FWA sector currently is connecting the unconnected, while working from home and DSL-line replacement are now also seen as significant demand drivers, according to the vendors surveyed by the GSA.

In addition, most of the respondents were bullish about the market going forward, expecting little to zero impact from component issues in 2023. They were, instead, more wary of expected pressures due to inflation.

While the market is growing in terms of size as well as importance – FWA now features in the broadband service plans of many more mobile and fixed network operators than it did two or three years ago – there is still a lot of work to be done on identifying and sizing the market, according to Julien Grivolas, chairman of the GSA 4G/5G FWA Forum, which is behind the annual market survey on FWA devices.

“Currently, there are no agreed market definitions, there is a lack of market information and no consensus on the volume of FWA device shipments and FWA installed base globally. The purpose of the GSA 4G/5G FWA Forum is to educate the industry about the FWA market”, noted Grivolas.

The GSA findings come in the wake of a forecast from research house GlobalData, which expects the FWA market to grow fivefold in the US by 2026, accounting for almost 9% of all broadband access lines by then. Driving forces include increased user demand and government support, enhanced data performance and user friendliness, as well as a desire by operators to cash in on fixed broadband services – see FWA tipped for rapid growth in the US by 2026.

Indeed, the market appears to be witnessing an uptake, as US specialist Tarana Wireless recently secured fresh funding that brought its value to $1bn – see FWA specialist Tarana raises $170 million, gets its ‘unicorn’ badge

And US operator T-Mobile bragged about having “smoked” the competition with its “remarkable growth” by signing up one million customers for its 5G-enabled home internet FWA service in one year.

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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