Fixed Wireless Subscriber Insights

Image of graphs for Fixed Wireless Subscriber Insights blog

by | June 7, 2019 | Networking

Fixed Wireless Subscriber Insights

The fixed wireless industry, primarily driven by Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs), is growing and attracting much-deserved attention. This is in part due to its contribution to bridging the digital divide. We thought it’d be interesting to see how fixed wireless subscribers behave vs. subscribers on other technologies like cable, DSL, or satellite. For instance, US cable internet customers are using an average of 268.7 GB per month. Similarly, a recent report cited the average home’s broadband usage at 190 GB per month.

So, what’s up with fixed wireless subscribers? Our Fixed Wireless Network Report answers key questions like:

  • What’s the average monthly data usage of a fixed wireless customer?
  • What’s the typical download speed (peak time vs. average)?
  • How much latency is experienced by fixed wireless or WISP customers?

With talk of a 5G revolution and growing per-capita data consumption due to the rise of streaming video, we thought many operators would be interested in subscriber-level statistics. For existing operators or WISPs, it may be interesting to compare their own network statistics with the industry averages as well.

Here at Preseem, we’re in a unique position to accumulate and analyze tons of data from WISP networks and answer some of these questions. In fact, Preseem ingests billions of metrics daily across tens of thousands of subscribers and thousands of access points from its customer base. In 2018, we launched the Fixed Wireless Network Report at WISPAPALOOZA. It was an instant hit, featured by industry blogs and media outlets. We recently launched a spring update and a free copy can be downloaded here.

Without further ado, let’s uncover some fixed wireless subscriber insights.

Fixed Wireless Subscriber Download Throughput Data

Download throughput is what most internet users are concerned with unless they’re uploading an important file or document. Download throughput is the rate/speed at which users receive data from the internet. One important factor we considered while collecting this data is the difference between peak usage time as compared to off-peak times. There’s little value in collecting subscriber statistics at times when there are not enough customers using the network (say at 2 a.m.).

The figure below compares the download throughput achieved by fixed wireless subscribers during the busiest (peak) and other times of the day:

Chart showing fixed wireless subscriber download throughput at peak and average times

So what did we find?

  • The average fixed wireless internet subscriber uses a little over 3 Mb/s of data (during peak times)
  • Considering the 95th percentile (as averages can be misleading), we can see that subscriber download throughput during peak times is 10.4 Mbps vs 10.9 Mbps during other times.

The difference between peak and off-peak is surprisingly small. This indicates that on the whole, subscriber throughput does not degrade significantly during busier times. This implies that WISP networks are not heavily oversubscribed. Additionally, this implies that WISP networks are able to handle congested times with relatively low degradation in each subscriber’s QoE.

Subscriber Latency Data

Latency can greatly affect a subscriber’s quality of experience. Think of those irritating Zoom calls with lags/call drops or your online gaming session being not fast or responsive enough. Problems like these are primarily caused by network latency.

It’s important to understand how network latency is measured. Preseem measures round trip time (RTT) latency by tracking the time for individual TCP segments to obtain a detailed view of the latency in the access network. This is fundamentally different than ICMP ping-based latency measurement because it measures true end-to-end latency, including the latency in the subscriber’s home.

Subscriber latency chart

When looking at the 80th percentile latency, we can see that peak-time latency hovers around 70ms. For all times, that number drops back into the 65ms range. These are within the ‘acceptable’ latency values according to most operators. Somewhat surprisingly, the latency difference between peak and off-peak times is relatively small which provides further evidence that WISP networks are not heavily oversubscribed.

Note that these metrics are collected from networks where Preseem is deployed to optimize latency and subscriber experience. Therefore, it’s quite likely that the latency in networks without such optimization is significantly higher.

Fixed Wireless Subscriber Usage Data

As per our latest Fixed Wireless Network Report, the average fixed wireless or WISP subscriber uses 6.7 GB of data per day. This amounts to over 201 GB monthly. As usual, the average hides significant variation between subscribers.

Fixed wireless subscriber usage data

Here we see that 33% of subscribers use less than 1GB of download usage per day. Interestingly, almost 12% use more than 16 GB per day. The disparity between low data users and high data users is fairly significant. This means that it’s important that WISPs offer different data plans.

While the heaviest data consumers in the fixed wireless world use around 500 GB+ monthly, 4.1 percent of US cable internet households are known to use at least 1 Terabyte of data!

Are you curious how we collected this data (peak vs off-peak, percentiles) or hungry for more info?

Preseem’s Fixed Wireless Network Report contains many more insights, including:

  • Real-world market share of access point manufacturers
  • A comparison of popular AP models on throughput and latency
  • WISPs and RF channel width, and much more

Download a free copy here.

Preseem is a one-of-a-kind Quality of Experience (QoE) monitoring and optimization platform for fixed wireless networks. For more information on Preseem or a free 30-day trial, book a demo with us today.

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