Fixed Wireless Access, or FWA, is a technology that replaces the traditional landline telephone network with a wireless alternative. Back when 5G was first emerging, AT&T Mobility () and T-Mobile US ( TMUS ) dedicated themselves to deploying its capabilities across their wireless networks. Verizon ( VZ ), in contrast, seemed more focused on 5G FWA — using 5G to provide FWA services to replace their older and problematic landline telephone service.
In those early days, this created confusion in the marketplace. Many of us thought Verizon was heading down the wrong path and giving its major wireless competitors an opening to leap ahead and leave it behind in the 5G dust.
At the time, Verizon assured us that it was focused on both. And that debate may continue. But it does appear that Verizon’s decision to deploy 5G FWA may have been a good strategy after all.
What is 5G FWA?
FWA is a type of 5G (or 4G LTE) wireless technology that enables fixed broadband access using radio frequencies instead of cables. It’s used to connect homes and businesses to the Internet just as the old telephone network did.
(There are many ways to apply 5G, and only one of them is what we think of when we think of traditional wireless: It’s the next level after 2G, 3G and 4G; and it powers the wireless network for smartphones and tablets while a user is out and about. FWA is another way; it uses the wireless network to connect to the home or office, instead of a wired connection.)
FWA is a service that can be offered by all wireless providers. In fact, we’re seeing other competitors like T-Mobile offer this wireless Internet service to the home with a service called 5G Home Internet.
The comapnies’ angles of attack are different. Verizon uses FWA to solve the problems it had with their old telephone network. While T-Mobile sees its 5G Home Internet as a growth opportunity.
Keeping up older, traditional, problematic landline telephone networks was not only very difficult, but also very expensive. Just ask anyone living in New York City and they will have stories to tell you about how bad traditional phone service has always been.
As technology continued to advance, bringing both wireless and fiber, Verizon quietly started terminating traditional telephone network services in high-rise apartment and office buildings, replacing it with a fiber substitute.
The problem with this approach is that Verizon was, in effect, positioning itself as the bad guy with their customers. Verizon could have done a much better job of explaining their reasoning to the customer — in a way that might actually drive demand for the new service.
However, that’s not the way things went. Over the years, I have heard countless stories from users who would call Verizon for service, with the expectation of a repair to their landline phone service. Instead, it would be terminated and replaced with another technology without their permission.
This confusion created end-user animosity against Verizon. It could have been avoided.
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the last thing you want to do is give your customers a reason to leave.
Legacy of Confusion
Over time it has become clear that every telephone company needs to replace their older, analog telephone network with new technology that will carry digital data. And that is exactly what they are doing today.
That means fiber optics and wireless. And with 5G wireless now being installed, Verizon’s FWA service gives it a successful track record to fall back on.
Even today, when you ask anybody about 5G, they will tell you it’s a wireless technology for the smartphone or tablet. While this is true, it is also a factor in FWA.
Today, the marketplace remains confused. And that’s Verizon’s fault.
The company should be educating the marketplace. Winning over the customer base. Creating demand rather than push-back.
That would be in their best long-term interest in a competitive marketplace.
Bottom line, even though they could have done this better, Verizon seems to have finally benefited from using FWA on the 5G wireless network.