Fixed wireless access: India’s new 5G battleground?

Fixed wireless access: India’s new 5G battleground?

Leading Indian operator Reliance Jio has now launched its long-promised 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) service. It’s called JioAirFiber and is coming to eight cities – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.

Jio says that its optical fibre infrastructure extends to over 1.5 million kilometres across India, bringing it close to over 200 million premises. But last-mile connectivity, or fibre to the premises, can be a challenge for optical fibre. Hence JioAirFiber, which will use 5G to bring things like entertainment, smart home services and broadband to millions of homes wirelessly.

Jio says it will provide a Wi-Fi router for coverage in a home or business, a 4K smart set top box, and a voice-active remote at no additional cost once the user has chosen from one of two initial categories: AirFiber and AirFiber Max. Not just entertainment (hundreds of channels, and streaming services like Netflix) but the connectivity demands of cloud PC, security and surveillance, smart home, IoT, and more can apparently be addressed with 5G FWA – as rival operator Bharti Airtel no doubt knows; it rolled out a 5G FWA service in August. 

But is FWA a good way to monetise 5G services? And will it therefore be India’s new 5G battleground? It could be. India’s wireline broadband penetration is amongst the lowest in the world: only 35 million of 300 million households have a wireline broadband connection.

According to India’s Economic Times, some analysts are suggesting that JioAirFiber alone could create a US$4-to-9 billion annual revenue opportunity – if it gets take-up from 50 to 100 million homes. And that’s the big ‘if’.

Will that many homes will sign up? And if they do, will competition drive down prices, and therefore revenue? We may find out as FWA reaches more areas in the coming months.

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