What is the future of fixed broadband?

What is the future of fixed broadband? A Pew Research report on Mobile Technology and Home Broadband in the US has revealed that smartphone users are increasingly moving away from traditional broadband connections. Is fixed internet access on the way out? 

In many ways, the writing was on the wall. The availability of cheap smartphones combined with the ever-decreasing cost of mobile data has meant that users are increasingly using their smartphones to access the digital world. A new Pew Research Center report has revealed that fixed broadband products are increasingly becoming less attractive as high speed mobile data becomes ubiquitous across the US.

According to the Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019 report, 37% of US adults use smartphones to access the internet, a number that’s doubled since 2013. In fact, 58% among the 18-29 age bracket use smartphones as their primary gateway to the internet, up from 41% in 2013. Even the share of adults preferring smartphones to go online in the 30-49 age bracket has nearly doubled from 2013 to stand at 47% today.

These trends are part of a broader shift from fixed broadband towards mobile data. Despite the fact that fixed broadband offers significant advantages in terms of faster speeds, higher download limits and lower latency, consumers increasingly prefer the more portable and flexible mobile option to access the internet.

In fact, 27% of respondents in the survey stated that they do not have a home broadband service, saying that they use mobile phones for all their connectivity needs. And 80% of this segment is not even considering purchasing a home broadband service in the future.

These trends might sound like music to the ears of the MNOs, but will be more worrying for those traditional telcos offering only fixed line products. As mobile data becomes increasingly sought after, telcos will have to look for alternative approaches including converged and hybrid fixed/mobile services that benefit from both network technologies.

However, whilst 5G mobile is now being promoted as a replacement for fixed broadband in consumer markets, 5G networks are in fact highly dependent on fixed (fibre) infrastructure for the backhaul. So perhaps the future for fixed broadband connectivity is actually embedded into other networks and newer services, such as smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT), rather than the consumer services we see today.

Of course, to be ready for this switch, telcos will need to invest in appropriate business and operational support systems which will support the transition to wholesale and ‘B2B2X’ business models, and a robust Enterprise BSS/OSS platform will be critical to support the next generation of services.