Using existing property cabling infrastructure to extend 5G FWA connections

July 5, 2023
Broadband Forum's latest project hands telco operators a boost in their quest to connect apartment complexes and other Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs) with 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) technology.
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Broadband Forum has launched a new initiative to help connect Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs), such as apartment complexes, with 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) technology, to help deployments in reach up to multi-gigabit connectivity speeds.

Produced by Broadband Forum’s Wireless Wireline Convergence (WWC) Work Area, the “Fixed Wireless Access Extension” project will focus on reusing existing property infrastructure cabling to extend FWA connections. Through such methods, Broadband Forum contends that telco operators can realize greater scalability, shortened deployment times, faster time to revenue, while achieving both opex and capex savings.

“Mobile operators are investing heavily to acquire spectrum space and base station infrastructure,” said Mr. Helge Tiainen, of InCoax Networks, a Broadband Forum member. “They then seek a fast return on investment by turning DSL customers into 5G FWA subscribers. By using the cabling already available in the building, it will save operators’ time and money, and give consumers a better broadband experience.”

As noted by the Forum, apartments can be reached using the existing property infrastructure cabling, such as twisted pair or coaxial cabling, from the attic or basement of the building.

“This project will have a huge impact on how telco operators can deploy 5G FWA connections in metropolitan areas,” Tiainen continued. “Since the deployment of FWA infrastructure has already been initiated, it is fundamental that we solve the MDU reachability challenge faced by the broadband industry today.”

A tangible solution for 5G FWA challenges

As reckoned by Broadband Forum's announcement of the project launch:

One issue commonly faced when using 5G mmWave technology is the difficulty sending mmWave signals through walls. Gigabit and multi-gigabit services require operators to use mmWave within the 24 – 100GHz spectrum to reach the service speed criteria.

At these high frequencies, signal strength can be attenuated as much as 45dB through each wall resulting in the 5G mmWave in-door coverage being uncertain and, in many cases, not possible.

A further challenge needs to be overcome if FWA modems are installed on the rooftop of an MDU as expensive Ethernet cabling must be laid to each apartment.

Today, typically one FWA modem for each subscriber is deployed on the rooftop. In a large MDU this could require more than 100 modems to deployed, which presents the challenge of finding adequate rooftop space, the required RF separation, and co-site interference issues.

“Broadband Forum is aiming to address and solve these challenges by leveraging the existing in-building infrastructure, such as telephone wiring or coaxial cabling, to extend 5G FWA to each apartment within a hotel block or apartment complex,” explained Nokia's Christele Bouchat, Wireless Wireline Convergence Work Area Co-Director at Broadband Forum. “We have launched this project to bring tangible benefits to operators and make the rapid and efficient delivery of multi-gigabit connectivity for residents and building owners a very real possibility.”

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