Every country has an urban side and a rural side.
The urban side is developed and modernised, and it comes with every advantage of modern technology.
The rural side, located on the outskirts, is completely different.
Millions of people in rural areas continue to wait for reliable internet connections because telecom operators can’t deploy wired connections in high-cost, low-profit areas.
The Tier II and Tier III cities of Southeast Asia are inching forward, but there are plenty of challenges awaiting operators before they can bring network connectivity to everyone.
This article will look at why 5G services are set to dominate the Southeast Asian region thanks to advances in FWA technology.
What Is FWA, And Why Should I Care?
Providing internet access to dense urban areas with individuals with high disposable incomes is easy. There are plenty of businesses to attract telecom operators, plenty of fiber infrastructures already set up, and plenty of options for the average individual.
But the same can’t be said for rural areas.
Rural areas come with plenty of uncivilized lands, such as mountains, hills, lakes, forests with wild animals, and rivers.
Putting down cables across hundreds of kilometers of wild land is a huge task for any company. Weather changes can knock out critical equipment and tear down power lines.
Imagine how hard it would be to find, figure out, and fix the problem if a connection broke.
These challenges are added to the cost of deploying fiber, along with getting the necessary regulatory clearance and the time and effort needed to handle natural barriers to set up a robust infrastructure that can withstand mother nature.
Even the simple presence of farmland, plants, and water can be challenging. Plants and water can absorb 2.4-GHz wireless signals. Raindrops falling from the sky are dense, and they block the radio waves your wireless connection uses to communicate with computers.
Rural operators struggle to borrow funds from the financial markets at low rates, something the big national telecom carriers have no trouble with. It’s also challenging for small rural operators to spread infrastructure across millions of customers.
Then there are additional safety problems. The internet bands that FWA makes use of are quite lossy.
This means that the equipment used by customers, the customer premise equipment, needs to generate higher levels of radio power to maintain a constant connection.
This means that operators need to provide the technology to protect people against RF exposure as well.
For a long time, governments, service providers, equipment manufacturers, and semiconductor providers had not agreed on a single standard with a set of harmonized spectrums.
This is where FWA comes in.
FWA provides internet service to people in these challenging rural areas by making use of wireless links between fixed points. These fixed points include cell towers and antennas.
So using these points allows operators to forego the need for fiber or cable lines completely. This reduces the amount of infrastructure that operators need to set up and reduces their overall cost of operating as a result.
You no longer need hundreds of kilometres’ worth of physical cables set up to connect remote residences.
You don’t even need technicians for installations since operators can deploy what is known as “customer premise equipment” that customers in rural areas can install all by themselves without outside help.
By reducing installation and deployment costs, operators can now afford to establish internet connections in rural areas with the help of FWA.
The biggest limiting factor in connecting people has been the high-cost, low-profit enterprise of setting up networks. The demand and customer base have always been there.
How FWA Is Pushing 5G In Asia
In the past, FWA, which used 4G LTE technology, has been expensive to deploy, maintain, and install.
But in the past decade or so, operators have learned a lot from their experience with 4G.
The creation and deployment of 5G applications now consider all of the lessons previously learned to make things more accessible and feasible.
Today’s 5G technology implementation can make use of 3GPP architecture and basic mobile components that you can find everywhere to do its work.
High-speed broadband services are thus possible right from the beginning, with little need to modify or change anything.
5G deployment makes use of mmWave extended range technology that makes it much easier for operators to deliver everything they need to customers at relatively lower costs.
The emergence of mmWave is the biggest advantage of 5G infrastructure and is projected to allow 5G monetization to dominate in the coming decade or so.
Combined with FWA, this is the first time ever that 5G coverage has been this widespread, and FWA technology poses a strong alternative to existing DSL, cable, and fixed line connections across the Southeast Asia market.
The advances made in mmWave are also what allow operators to provide affordable data rates and increased spectral capacity.
Antennae technology has also advanced in the past decade or so, allowing beam tracking, beamforming, and massive MIMO to increase coverage across a huge radius with strong connectivity.
The Future Of 5G and FWA Technology
Operators have long since struggled for more spectrum with 4G technology. The rise in network demand over the past two decades has been nothing short of phenomenal.
It was very challenging for operators to use what little precious spectrum they had for fixed wireless services rather than simply jumping on mobile broadband services, which are significantly higher revenue-generating projects.
But the situation is completely different today, thanks to the help of 5G.
5G stands to dominate the Southeast Asian markets by 2028 because the spectrum situation is completely different.
Millimeter wave bands are now accessible for broadband, allowing operators 10–40 times more spectrum for 5G in India than what was available for 4G.
With 4G connections, FWA was a total afterthought. It was never developed with FWA in mind.
Today, with 5G, we have advanced antenna modules that have been specifically engineered with FWA in mind to boost coverage so that rural connectivity is much more affordable and feasible for telecom operators.
It is for this reason that 5G subscriptions are expected to rise at an exponential rate in the coming decade.
5G subscriptions are expected to reach 690 million by the end of 2028.
This makes 5G the dominant technology in terms of subscriptions.
5G is estimated to have a penetration rate of 48% as a result.
But what about 5G speed? Early projections show that mobile traffic is expected to grow from 12.5 GB per month to 54 GB per month in 2028.
This would largely be due to the increasing file sizes of webpages and the increases in video quality that have taken place and will continue to take place. Thankfully, 5G speeds are expected to be 15-20 times faster than existing 4G connections, reaching a comfortable 20 Gbps for customers looking for high speeds.
5G services are expected to reach 110 million subscribers by the end of 2022, bringing the total number of subscribers to 870 million.
The growth of 5G is expected to outclass the growth of 4G during the launch completely. This would make 5G the fastest-growing, fastest-scaling mobile connectivity generation.
Across all of Southeast Asia, the 5G population is expected to comprise 85% of the market, while 5G networks are expected to handle around 70% of all mobile traffic.
When you consider that mobile network data has been roughly doubling every two years, operators are looking at a very busy and profitable decade in front of them.