Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, 20 others sign on to GSA FWA Forum

Leading telecom equipment vendors Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia are among 23 members that have signed on as part of a new forum to advocate for global 4G and 5G fixed wireless access uptake and development.

The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) launched its 4G-5G Fixed Wireless Access Forum in November to build on efforts of its FWA working group that aimed to coordinated fixed wireless industry initiatives focused on LTE and 5G access networks.  

Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia were among founding members of that FWA working group, along with Samsung and ZTE. The latter two were not named as founding partners and members of the new forum on Tuesday, but other major chipset and equipment vendors were, including Casa Systems, Quectel, and Sequans.

Casa Systems in September debuted what called the industry’s first high-power 5G mmWave customer premises equipment (CPE).

RELATD: Casa Systems banks on FWA at mmWave frequencies

As the 4G-5G FWA Forum’s first undertaking, partners will form a Steering Team and make picks for chair and vice-chairperson roles.

The main goals of the forum were laid out in broad strokes, including: sharing industry trends and collecting and promoting successful FWA experiences; promoting industry success to accelerate FWA market adoption; improving 4G and 5G FWA technologies for better performance and cost-effectiveness; and bolstering the FWA ecosystem by facilitating collaboration among vendors.

Another objective is to create a FWA customer premises equipment (CPE) booklet that details the fixed wireless access products available in the market.

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In a statement, Joe Barrett, president of GSA, pointed to the Forum’s participation from top vendors and traction on FWA deployments.

“The interest and support for the 4G-5G FWA Forum from across a wide range of companies in the FWA ecosystem demonstrates this area of the mobile market is seen as an early growth opportunity for 5G,” Barrett stated, adding that: “This new initiative will help drive more 4G and 5G FWA deployments and we are delighted by the strong momentum behind the Forum that is already building.”

Fixed wireless access momentum

Fixed wireless access for both LTE and 5G has garnered interest from operators, including major U.S. carriers, and GSA and Ericsson each put out reports this week that share some new data on FWA uptake.

4G or 5G FWA services are available from 429 operators globally, according to GSA’s latest update on the status of FWA.

Of that, a lion’s share is still understandably LTE, with 423 operators selling 4G FWA service – up 5.5% since the last report six months ago.

RELATED: T-Mobile puts target on AT&T with LTE fixed wireless pilot expansion

GSA’s snapshot report released Monday was performed from September to November 2020. It doesn’t include any industrial-grade or large enterprise FWA services and devices that were designed for IoT or private networks.

Out of the more than 120 operators that announced 5G launches as of mid-November, GSA recorded 44 that are offering either residential or business 5G FWA services – a 41% jump from the 31 operators doing so six months ago.

Ericsson, a member of GSA’s new FWA Forum, released data on fixed wireless this week too. The Ericsson November 2020 Mobility Report (PDF) pegged different figures for FWA than GSA, but still showcased momentum of the technology. Out of 311 service providers observed in Ericsson’s study, around 200 offered FWA, or an average of 64% globally.

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FWA market adoption was highest in Western Europe, according to Ericsson, at 94%, while North America stood at 80%. Central Europe, Latin America and North America all saw FWA adoption spike 10% from February to October 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is well accepted by now that the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating digitalization, as well as increasing the importance of, and need for, fast and reliable home broadband connectivity. FWA is, in many cases, the quickest alternative for service providers to meet this demand,” Ericsson’s report stated.

GSA noted operators’ decisions about whether to offer FWA depends on a variety of reasons such as how extensive a fixed-line broadband footprint is in the region; if there are many remote regions without access to broadband; how advanced an operator’s fixed broadband network is if they have one; and whether a competitor has introduced FWA service.

RELATED: Shentel details the elements of its fixed wireless access service

According to GSA’s report, the U.S. has the most service providers offering LTE-based fixed wireless service with a total of 38 including regional and national providers.

Major U.S. operators have indicated they’re looking at fixed wireless access as a way to offer home broadband service in rural locations as well. Verizon recently expanded its LTE fixed wireless offering, while T-Mobile made a stronger push with its 4G LTE FWA home internet pilot – targeting rural or underserved areas.

Verizon also offers a 5G flavor of FWA using millimeter wave spectrum with its 5G Home product available in parts of 12 cities. T-Mobile plans to launch a 5G-based fixed wireless broadband service for the home in 2021, but hasn’t disclosed many additional details.