Fixed wireless access (FWA) has already emerged as one of the most significant use cases for 5G mobile networking and has now become the fastest-growing technology for fixed broadband communications, according to research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OECD study revealed that fibre, which has been the dominant technology since 2021, amounted to 41% of total fixed broadband subscriptions in June 2023. Traditional copper-based DSL connections now represent only a 22% share of overall broadband connections, while cable accounts for 30.5%. Satellite, which grew 11% over the last three years, represented 0.7% of fixed broadband subscribers.

While FWA represents a more modest share of 3.7% of total fixed broadband subscriptions in countries where data is available, between June 2020 and June 2023 FWA subscriptions increased by 64%, compared to fibre subscriptions which were up by 56% . The US (252%), Estonia (153%), Norway (139%) and Spain (118%) – all territories with strong 5G markets – were at the vanguard of FWA growth.

Nine OECD countries have more than 70% of fibre connections for broadband, with South Korea, Japan, Iceland and Spain leading the way with the highest fibre penetration rates of 89%, 86%, 85%, and 84%, respectively. The highest fibre growth rates were to be found in Europe, with Austria and Belgium at 75% and 73% over the last year, closely followed by Mexico with a growth in fibre of 68%. Two other Latin American countries are in the top seven – Costa Rica and Colombia with fibre growth of 42% and 34%, respectively.

In addition, mobile data usage per subscription grew substantially by 28% in one year, passing from 10.2GB to 13GB per subscription per month in OECD countries as of June 2023.

The amount of data consumed in countries varied greatly. The range was from 6GB to 46GB, with Latvia being the OECD leader. Despite very high mobile broadband penetration in the OECD area, the study also found that mobile subscriptions continued to grow by 4.6% over the last year, reaching 1.8 billion, up from 1.74 billion a year earlier. Mobile broadband penetration is highest in Japan, Estonia, the US and Finland, with subscriptions per 100 inhabitants at 200%, 192%, 183% and 161%, respectively.

Noting that eighteen countries were able to provide the number of their 5G subscriptions separately from mobile broadband subscriptions, the study found the share of 5G in total mobile broadband subscriptions was 23% on average for the OECD countries that provided data.

Looking at a key application area for fixed broadband access, the study revealed that machine-to-machine (M2M) SIM cards grew 14% increase in one year. The two leading M2M SIM countries were Sweden with 238 cards per 100 inhabitants and Iceland (203), followed by Austria (179), the Netherlands (93) and Norway (76). Both Sweden and Iceland issued M2M SIM cards for international use.

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