Verizon’s contrarian 5G FWA strategy could finally pay off

Fixed Wireless Access or FWA is a technology that replaces the traditional landline with a wireless alternative. When 5G first emerged AT&T Mobility (Chart T – $19.44 $0.18 (0.935%)) and T-Mobile US (Chart TMUS – $149.35 $2.62 (1.786%)) deploying its capabilities on their wireless networks. Verizon (Chart VZ – $40.22 0.38 (0.954%)), on the other hand, appeared to be more focused on 5G FWA — using 5G to provide FWA service to replace their older and troubled landline phone service.

In those early days, this caused confusion in the market. A lot of us thought Verizon was going down the wrong path and giving its big wireless competitors a chance to leap forward and outperform it in the 5G dust.

At the time, Verizon assured us that it was focusing on both. And this debate can go on. But it seems that Verizon’s decision to deploy 5G FWA might 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 over radio frequencies instead of wires. It is used to connect homes and businesses to the internet just like the old telephone network did.

(There are many ways to apply 5G, and just one of them is what comes to mind when we think of traditional WiFi: It’s the next level after 2G, 3G, and 4G; and it’s powering the wireless network for smartphones and tablets while a user is away. FWA is another possibility; it uses the wireless network to connect to the home or office instead of a wired connection.)

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FWA is a service that can be offered by all cell phone providers. In fact, we’re seeing other competitors like T-Mobile offering this wireless internet service for the home with a service called 5G Home Internet.

The angles of attack of the companies are different. Verizon is using FWA to solve the problems it was having with its legacy phone network. While T-Mobile sees its 5G Home Internet as a growth opportunity.

Maintaining older, traditionally troubled landline telephone networks was not only very difficult, but also very expensive. Just ask anyone who lives in New York City and they’ll be able to tell you stories about how bad traditional phone service has always been.

As technology continued to advance, bringing both Wi-Fi and fiber, Verizon quietly began phasing out traditional telephone network services in high-rise residential and office buildings and replacing them with fiber-optic replacements.

The problem with this approach is that Verizon effectively positioned itself as the villain to its customers. Verizon could have explained its reasoning to the customer much better — in a way that could actually drive demand for the new service.

However, that’s not how things worked out. Over the years, I’ve heard countless stories of users calling Verizon for a repair on their landline phone service. Instead, it would be terminated without their consent and replaced with another technology.

This confusion led to end-user hostility toward Verizon. It could have been avoided.

In an increasingly competitive market, you certainly don’t want to give your customers a reason to leave the company.

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Legacy of Confusion

Over time it became clear that every telephone company needed to replace their older, analog telephone network with new technology that carried digital data. And that’s exactly what they’re doing today.

That means fiber optics and wireless. And now that 5G wireless is being deployed, Verizon’s FWA service has a successful track record.

If you ask anyone about 5G today, they will tell you that it is a wireless technology for the smartphone or tablet. While this is true, it also plays a role in the FWA.

Today the market remains confused. And that’s Verizon’s fault.

The company should inform the market. Acquisition of the customer base. Create demand instead of suppressing it.

That would be in their best long-term interest in a competitive marketplace.

Bottom Line: While they could have done better, Verizon seems to have finally benefited from using FWA on the 5G wireless network.