In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, Spectrum

Some will remain skeptical about prospects for fixed or mobile internet access as a direct competitor to fixed network internet access, in developed or developing markets. In most developing markets, mobile already is the standard way most people use voice and the internet.  In fact, mobile substitution has been a reality in some markets for years.  

There are bigger questions in developed nations where fixed network internet access is well established. Historically, capacity and price-per-unit have been key limitations: mobile bandwidth simply has not been able to reach fixed levels, while price-per-bit for mobile usage is much higher than for fixed access.

Whether that continues, in the 5G era, is a growing question. It would be fair to say many remain skeptical. Much of the new spectrum to be made available will in the millimeter regions, where signal propagation is an issue. There will be questions about millimeter wave reach and network cost, since small cells will be a requirement, and that means many more locations than a macrocell network uses. 

Others might simply question whether mobile operators really can supply bandwidth at prices equivalent to fixed offers, either on a price per gigabyte basis or on a monthly cost basis, even with access to much new spectrum. 

Still, as mobile has become an effective substitute for fixed network voice, some argue mobile networks will become effective substitutes for fixed internet access as well, and very likely linear entertainment video as well. 


That noted, 5G networks are  expected to be the means for telcos in some markets (United States, for example) to take market share in both video and internet access, where they have not been able to defend against cable TV leadership, and might find the economics of fiber to the home prohibitive. Also, given the lead in mobile services, it only makes sense to ask whether wireless can be the platform to compete at gigabit speeds, at much lower cost, given 5G capabilities (mobile and fixed modes). 

In other words, we are likely to see a key test of whether mobility can become an effective substitute for fixed networks in big new areas, including internet access and entertainment video.

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