The worldwide residential broadband market grew 4.4% to 1.1 billion subscriptions last year compared to 2019, according to ABI Research. One broadband category is forecast for much greater growth. 5G fixed wireless access (FWA), which will reach more than 58 million residential subscriptions in 2026, will have a compound annual growth rate of 71%, ABI says.
Demand for high capacity broadband residential networks is being driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Strong drivers included remote working, online learning, e-commerce and virtual healthcare. Demanding use cases such as video streaming and online gaming are pushing existing subscribers to higher tier packages.
Demand won’t fade when the pandemic finally ends. “Increasing adoption of internet-connected devices, smart TVs, and smart home devices, as well as consumers’ media consumption through internet applications, will continue to drive high-speed broadband adoption in the years to come,” Industry Analyst Khin Sandi Lynn said in a press release about the 5G fixed wireless forecast. “In addition, many businesses are allowing remote working for some of their employees after the pandemic, which will boost the need for home broadband services even further.”
Service providers are investing to meet this growth. Cable operators are upgrading to DOCSIS 3.1 and are working on the next iteration of the standard, DOCSIS 4.0. For instance, Comcast conducted a lab test of DOCSIS 4.0 full-duplex system-on-chip in April. For their part, the telcos are upgrading xDSL to FTTH and using FWA as a cost-effective alternative. In parallel, 5G mmWave will facilitate 5G FWA in both urban and low density areas. 5G FWA will represent 4% of residential broadband in 2026 – compared to less than 1% last year.
Competition between the players and eventual saturation of markets will require network operators to invest in software and hardware to optimize network performance and improved user experiences, according to ABI. Home networking devices, Internet security and home network self-diagnosis tools can offer ways for service providers to cut churn and increase average revenue per user.
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