5G FWA boost for MDU connectivity
July 6, 2023
By Colin Mann
A new project has been launched by open standards development body Broadband Forum to help connect Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs), such as apartment complexes, with 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) to help reach up to multi-gigabit connectivity speeds.
The ‘Fixed Wireless Access Extension’ project from Broadband Forum’s Wireless Wireline Convergence (WWC) Work Area will focus on reusing the existing property infrastructure cabling to extend FWA connections.
According to the Broadband Forum, telcos can realise greater scalability, shortened deployment times, faster time to revenue, and achieve OpEx and CapEx savings. 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.
“Mobile operators are investing heavily to acquire spectrum space and base station infrastructure,” said 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.”
“This project will have a huge impact on how telco operators can deploy 5G FWA connections in metropolitan areas,” he declared. “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.”
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,” said Christele Bouchat, Nokia and 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.”