Fixed wireless service quality lags wired broadband, says Evercore

The analysts at Evercore Research, led by Vijay Jayant, conducted proprietary research covering a random sample of 10,000 residential addresses across the U.S. to determine the availability of Verizon’s and T-Mobile’s home internet services. They found that 39% of total households have T-Mobile Home Internet fixed wireless access (FWA) service available, while 15% of households have access to Verizon’s FWA product.

The addresses in Evercore’s research were proportionately sampled by state and chosen to match U.S. population distribution among urban, suburban and rural areas. The data was gathered after Verizon switched on its C-Band coverage in January.

FWA performance

The analysts found that, overall, the service quality of FWA offered by different providers lagged that of fiber and cable broadband.

“When it comes to the performance of fixed wireless service, reports indicate a very high degree of variability,” stated the Evercore research. The analysts found that at the high end, some customers on Verizon’s 5G mmwave service are getting download speeds at or above 1 Gbps, with upload speeds of over 100 Mbps. But at the other end of the range, AT&T’s rural-focused, LTE fixed wireless offering only commits to 10/1 Mbps service.

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“Overall, though, real-world fixed wireless speeds on 5G appear to typically be 100 Mbps+ downstream and ~20 Mbps upstream on a relatively consistent basis, with LTE offerings generating 10-50 Mbps downstream and 5-10 Mbps upstream,” stated Evercore. “There’s limited data on uptime and reliability, but anecdotally, fixed wireless does appear to face more frequent downtime or dropouts than fiber or cable wireline broadband products.”

Fixed wireless may also be inferior to wired broadband connections from a latency perspective, which is important for gaming and video conferencing on platforms such as Zoom. Typically, wired broadband offers latency of less than 20ms. In contrast, T-Mobile cites expected latency in the 30-40ms range for its Home Internet service, while Verizon’s expects latency of less than 30ms for its mmwave 5G fixed wireless access and less than 100ms for its sub-6 GHz 5G and LTE home broadband service.

“Outside of urban areas with millimeter wave, cable and fiber are able to offer a superior product to fixed wireless, and we expect that many of the fixed wireless net adds in rural areas will be households transitioning from DSL to fixed wireless where cable or fiber is not available,” stated Evercore.

RELATED: Marek’s Take: My 5G fixed wireless experience

Fierce’s contributing editor Sue Marek got Verizon 5G Home installed at her residence in Denver and reported excellent speeds of as high as 1.7 Gbps downstream and 25 Mbps upstream. But she is near a Verizon 5G mmWave small cell.

The Evercore analysts predict that fixed wireless’s greatest opportunities to gain share will be in rural areas with no existing cable or fiber offering and dense urban areas where mmWave can offer a service competitive with cable. FWA will also likely pick up value-focused customers and those customers who are just looking for an alternative to cable.

“Longer term, we would not be surprised if many of these households transition from fixed wireless to fiber or cable if it gets built out in the service area with fixed wireless serving as an intermediate step,” said Evercore. “There are likely rural areas where it will never be economical to build out fiber or cable, even with generous government subsidies, where we expect fixed wireless will compete with LEO satellite to provide the best service offering in the long-term.”