06 April 2023
5G fixed wireless access (FWA) technology is revolutionising connectivity options for businesses and homes across the globe. But how best to monetize it? Ewa Jaskowiak, director of strategic business development, Enxoo, reports
The worldwide deployment of 5G in 2019 promised data speeds up to ten times faster than 4G, as well as providing lower latency. However, nearly three years later, 5G still isn’t fully supported by digital infrastructure that will enable mobile network operators (MNOs) to fully gain the benefits of its services. 5G is accelerating a revolution in enterprise IT with fixed wireless as a global market being expected to surpass US$90 billion by 2030 from US$0.5 billion in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 75.4% according to Fatpos Global Pvt.
As the millennial and generation Z populations rapidly increase in the workplace there is a greater demand for fast, seamless internet and stronger 5G fixed wireless access connections. According to Statista, the number of 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) connections is estimated at 71.82 million by 2026 and 5G FWA could ultimately account for 21% of all connections by 2030.
With almost every enterprise undergoing digital transformation, there is a huge opportunity for MNOs as the demands for 5G and fixed wireless services begin to increase. MNOs can achieve a greater return on investment (ROI) if they can begin to address the hurdles 5G fixed wireless has and understand why it is preventing effective monetisation.
Deploying innovative 5G services
According to a Nokia-commissioned survey, it was found that only 11% of communication service providers (CSPs) around the world had sufficient business support systems (BSS) that would help achieve effective 5G monetisation. It was also found that 70% of the CSPs are now considering deploying cloud-based monetisation systems as they will be able to enable new services, faster and at a scale that can achieve a greater ROI on their network investments.
MNOs are experiencing more operational complexity as they add 5G to their portfolios. Customers are demanding 5G with almost impossible delivery times as they want procurement and service to be ready quickly so that they can enjoy faster download and upload speeds. However, the challenge with deploying 5G is the support that is necessary for greater service agility, automation, and greater visibility into sales.
Legacy technologies are hindering MNO sales and operational processes as the lack of adoption of innovative technologies take away the ability to move with new speed and agility.
New innovations continue to enable enterprises to renew internal and external processes for decades to reduce costs and deploy emerging technologies. MNOs are now realising that serving the demand for 5G fixed wireless services will require more than just the technology; they will need to create a seamless experience for the customer from start to finish and that begins with the first sales touchpoints.
If MNOs continue to deploy 5G successfully there is a good opportunity for scaling. Sales processes are not currently feasible as they operate manually and offline. This creates a problem for MNOs as current processes are slow and from the past.
Digital transformation is the most valued journey an MNO needs to pick up on for its sales processes to become digital, seamless, and quick.
Capitalising 5G FWA
As the demand for high-speed internet and lower latency continues to rise, there has been an accelerated expansion in the 5G FWA market. 5G FWA offers scalable, cost-efficient broadband technology with high-speed, wireless connection that goes the extra mile.
The answer to high-speed connectivity and lower latency demands is 5G FWA. Although the service is currently lacking in rural or newly built suburban areas. 5G FWA is meant to be a lower-cost alternative to fibre to the home (FTTH) and still deliver similar speeds. It has a greater advantage as there is no time-consuming process to installing 5G FWA; unlike digging to install fibre across various locations, FWA uses existing towers and antennas located near customers’ businesses or homes.
MNOs are currently rapidly seeking to capitalise on the opportunity of 5G FWA, however, to ensure a good customer experience there are things an MNO needs to consider:
- 5G premise equipment – MNOs have not accounted for fixed terminals as there are rooftop antennas in which indoor fixed terminals and routers may be needed. MNOs need to ensure they have planning tools to determine how many terminals will be required per location and identify the best place to put them.
- New spectrum challenges – The usual spectrum for connectivity is mid-band, however other options including millimetre are also available to operators. MNOs need to understand how services can be impacted depending on which spectrum band is used.
- Customer KPIs – There are certain KPIs that need to be met when delivering high-speed fixed broadband. An MNO should analyse and view these on a map to predict the user experience and have planning engineers understand certain elements in advance.
5G FWA is unknown territory for MNOs and brings numerous advantages alongside being a disruptive technology. However, to benefit from revenue and business growth, operators must pay close attention to optimisation and planning.
Switching to automated networks
There is a large opportunity for enterprises to reduce the number of costs and improve sales margins with 5G. Once the opportunity is identified, MNOs can slowly move away from the offline, manual methods and start enhancing their business operations in multiple ways. There are many revenue streams that can be opened by 5G technology and MNOs can begin to offer new services like fixed wireless. Enterprises can drive expenses down with automated network planning and operations for a streamlined approach to sales.
For 5G to be successful, the system should allow for:
- Fast connection speeds
- Automated service creation
- Enablement for IoT/edge platforms
- Support for dedicated networks
- A high level of automation
All these factors will facilitate dynamic network slicing with specific provisioning requirements.
FWA is common in countries where FTTH or FTTB alternatives have become out of date, slow and too low quality for the demographics within the area. MNOs should take this opportunity and capitalise on this and focus on their sales effort where demand for fixed wireless access service is growing to get the best chance of success.
To ensure sales are not wasted, sales reps need great visibility into a variety of different areas including services, pricing, and costs to ensure that the decision they make is right for every customer.
Enterprises that match the needs and demands of local and global customers, using digital processes to enable them to create more tailored, seamless experiences.
There are currently 12 African countries that are either conducting or rolling out 5G and over 100 million internet users in urban, suburban, and rural areas of Africa that could benefit from 5G FWA. There is a digital divide in Africa as major cities benefit from 5G services at different speeds and other digital products whereas other areas are facing little to no connectivity.
According to ABI Research, 1 in 5 people living in sub-Saharan Africa still do not have mobile broadband coverage, equating to more than 200 million people. To help bridge the gap and provide connectivity, a 5G FWA network can help meet the criteria for affordable broadband connectivity that does not need new equipment and is more cost-friendly.
There is a large opportunity for sub-Saharan Africa as it has a history of poor fixed network coverage and 5G FWA can help solve that gap. It can enable a fibre like experience, especially in remote areas where it would be impractical to deploy. During the pandemic, FWA became a significant growth driver, especially for emerging countries like South Africa.
5G FWA is also a more profitable proposition for operators as the potential ROI is less than three years which makes it a more commercially feasible technology for an investor. 5G fixed wireless access network is the best option for expanding fixed connectivity in the developing world and enabling African markets and beyond in a new era of innovation.
Better roadmaps with fixed wireless
MNOs who start or continue with their digital transformation journey will slowly add these processes into the sales department. This enables their organisation to create better business-to-user roadmaps.
5G is a great alternative to cable broadband which attracts enterprises as it is much faster than 4G or LTE networks. Both underserved local markets and global markets can benefit from fixed wireless, especially in rural or built-up areas where a fixed-line infrastructure can be difficult to deploy.
MNOs are able to maximise their revenues, reduce costs and enhance their reputation within the enterprise landscape by streamlining their offerings, sales process and overall experience. They need the right digital transformation partner to approach FWA and help support them understand the telecoms industry.
MNOs need to understand that those who leave their legacy manual processes as they are, will find that their ROI from network investments will not come to them. It is time to innovate current manual systems to drive expenses down and maximise margins to match the demands of local and global customers.