Fixed Wireless Access Delivering Broadband When Fiber Isn’t Available

December 4th, 2020 by · 1 Comment

This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Michael Kletchko, Head of Market Development, ADTRAN

Globally, the average broadband speed requirement continues to rise and fiber access remains the first choice for high bandwidth performance, low latency, low maintenance and durability.  However, unique times demand unique solutions, and where fiber is not available, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) steps up to provide high capacity solutions for communities that require improved speeds.  FWA is already widely deployed, however with the rapid changes that Covid-19 has brought to our communities, it is now imperative to provide higher speed broadband to areas in need.  We cannot teach children in school parking lots; we must offer communities the option for broadband in their homes now.

Amazing things happen when people connect. Whether rural or urban, domestic or international, telco or cable, enterprise or residential, optimized gigabit broadband solutions deliver the vision of global networking. FWA is addressing last mile deployment challenges timely, cost effectively and with increased speed and resilience.

Both copper and fiber deployment for broadband service is not always an upgrade option. Municipal regulations make fiber trenching prohibitive, lower population densities in rural markets reduce the fiber business case ROI, while manmade or natural obstructions may prevent the installation of fiber regardless of cost. FWA offers a solution to this dilemma and having a “toolkit” of technology partners has offered us a means to help our customers’ unique challenges with a myriad of timely solutions. 

Service Providers are looking for options and are seeking a partner that can provide an end to end solution, proven deployment and ongoing support and maintenance - a partner with established relationships with best in class point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and mesh technologies to meet this challenge.  Having a “toolkit” of solutions helps  fiber extension needs with high capacity service delivery and alleviates customers from having to seek solutions from a myriad of vendors and technologies. 

Additionally, for customers adding FWA to their wireline network, it is important for a partner to offer a full suite of FWA services, as wireless certainly introduces different concepts from fiber or copper deployment.  Considerations of clutter including trees, buildings or other obstructions are needed.  Also, it is important to understand how natural elements like rain and even oxygen absorption (prevalent in 60GHz deployments) could impact coverage and service level speeds.

FWA services include Network Integration Services such as Site Surveys, RF Design, Backhaul Radio Link Design, Radio Equipment Install, Integration and Test, Care Services and Support.  Additionally, adding FWA to the Backoffice also requires significant consideration and understanding, therefore having an end-to-end partner that can help customers remains paramount.  Managed Services may also be considered and available to ensure customers can effectively run and maintain the network.  This could include NOC (Network Operations Center), managed capacity, CAF collection and reporting, field services and even spare parts management. 

When a customer need is identified, it is very rewarding to have a toolkit of FWA technologies understood, available and included to address their needs.  For instance, to get from a customer’s fiber to where they are seeking capacity or a radio to reach out to their customers, point to point technologies may be considered.  Note that each has their own attributes to consider including Lightly Licensed (i.e. E Band 80GHz 10Gb solutions), Licensed (6GHz, 11GHz, 18GHz, 23GHz, 28GHz & 39GHz 1Gb options) and unlicensed (Line of Sight (LOS), near LOS and even non LOS, 5.1 to 5.8GHz 850Mb UL and 850Mb DL) options that may be strand mounted due to its LTE 2x2 MIMO multipath friendly capability.  FWA can meet most customer fiber extension needs as identified above, including the partners ability to install and maintain as needed.

Point to multipoint solutions are also considered, to disperse 1 to 4Gb of radio capacity across a residential community and deliver more than appropriate speeds,  CAF II service levels of 10Mb downlink and 1Mb uplink (10/1) or 25Mb downlink and 3 Mb uplink (25/3) are now considered the minimum speed level offerings and are now being upgraded with much higher service tiers.  The upcoming FCC RDOF auction in Oct is seeking Service Providers that are looking to offer the minimum 25/3 or Baseline 50/5, above Baseline 100/20 and even Gigabit 1Gb/500Mb services.  $20.4 Billion dollars are being made available over 10 years to strengthen customer service availability and awarded to the Service Provider that can most cost effectively meet these service tiers. FWA technologies are available to cost effectively deliver all the above tiers.

One point to multipoint consideration for customers includes an LTE CBRS solution (3.55GHz to 3.7GHz) that offers macro eNB radios and Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) mounted on homes or businesses, delivering optimal performance. CBRS spectrum is a total of 150MHz split into 10MHz blocks.  The Priority Access Licenses (PAL) 70MHz tier, was recently auctioned generating $4.6B to the FCC for a 10-year renewable exclusive right to 4-10MHz channels. Obviously, this kind of investment demonstrates the significant interest in this spectrum and the opportunity it holds, as 3.5GHz offers near Line of Sight with service effectively delivered in even treed or hilly terrain due to LTE’s timing ability to accept multi-path. The General Authorized Access (GAA) 80MHz tier allows Service Providers to share spectrum as available across 8-10MHz channels that may be combined as available.  CBRS offers the first shared spectrum in the USA and promises to provide residential or private LTE service without having to purchase spectrum.  Highly automated frequency coordinators or Spectrum Access Systems (SAS) are ensuring the spectrum is efficiently and effectively shared through cooperative ‘service request’ data sharing through respective SAS by companies such as Google, Federated and CommScope. 

Other point-to-multipoint technologies offers proven proprietary services in the unlicensed sub 6GHz arena with a proven track record for high quality equipment and service.  Customers have different expectations, and it is important to remain flexible to meet their unique challenges and needs.

For customers seeking resilient high capacity, gigabit mesh solutions, 60GHz offers a real fiber alternative with Gb or multi-Gb drops.  Mesh solutions offer Self-Organizing Network (SON) capabilities, are interference aware, and are self-healing.  With inputs of either 1Gb or 10Gb (with an SFP+ direct fiber interface), an all-in-one, easy to deploy solution with 300 degrees of horizontal visibility and multi Gb radio meshing, high customer broadband expectations can be cost effectively met.  60GHz offers significant advantages for customers but has its challenges with absolute Line of Sight (LOS) and approximately 300 to 500 meter deployment distances between nodes.  With access to rooftops, light poles, and other ‘above clutter’ mounts; Enterprise, MDU, and campuses benefit greatly with this high capacity service solution.  Additionally, using 60GHz mesh as a backhaul solution for municipal Wi-Fi or CCTV provides high capacity, resilient networks that can easily meet high level SLAs.

Customers  are seeking leverage with a strong end-to-end partner’s expertise for last mile solutions, combining best-in-class fixed wireless technologies with comprehensive network knowledge and implementation services, to offer high-capacity broadband connectivity, at the lowest cost-per-add. The utilization of best-in-class technologies, cutting-edge products and world-class services and support deliver the right solution for customer’s unique service needs.

Until recently, there was no ultra-high bandwidth alternative to fiber. High performance FWA has emerged to fill the gigabit broadband need when fiber is not an option. Customers are now embracing FWA, its resilience, flexibility and gigabit capacity to solve customer broadband challenges.  Especially now in 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for immediate high capacity broadband has never been greater.  FWA can fill this requirement with fast deployment and affordable prices. Having an end-to-end partner is essential to help pull the technology pieces together and bridge the service gap all while managing the end-to-end network.

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Categories: Industry Viewpoint · Wireless

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  • Voip NZ says:

    What a great source of knowledge upon the fixed wireless access delivering broadband while fiber isn’t available. I am really happy to come across this exceptionally well written content. Thanks for sharing and look for more in future!! This is a brilliant post, thank you for sharing these great tips.

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