As we talk to people around the world about the benefits of fiber-fast wireless broadband, we hear a lot of crazy rumors about fixed wireless, from the outdated to the outlandish.

Here we tackle them head on to debunk just a few:

“Fixed wireless only works for rural, not residential or enterprise”
The Reality:
Despite rumors that fixed wireless is not a good fit for residential or enterprise environments, the reality is that fixed wireless can perform beautifully in both urban and suburban settings.

While it’s true that vegetation and interference in suburban and urban environments are challenging, these problems can be overcome with the right technology solution.  First, choosing radios and antennas with a stronger signal, relative to the interference, definitely helps you get above the noise.  More importantly, employing precisely-timed GPS synchronization avoids the problem of self-interference when you deploy multiple access points in a small area.  By precisely coordinating the downlink and uplink transmissions across the network, operators can successfully provide a scalable service in higher-density neighborhoods.

Choosing the right frequency is also critical. While some in the 5G industry might prefer to use the broad spectrum available in millimeter wave bands, these higher frequencies perform quite poorly when operating through trees, foliage or other obstructions. Spectrum below 6GHz is, in fact, better suited for suburban and urban environments, when paired with efficient spectrum reuse techniques to achieve the required performance.

“Fixed wireless requires Line-of-Sight to work”
The Reality:
This myth about Line-of-Sight is closely related to the idea that fixed wireless only works in rural environments, where shooting long distances can help you get above the ground obstructions.  But in fact, fixed wireless has been operating very efficiently in non- and near-Line-of-Sight environments with heavy foliage and other neighborhood obstructions for many years.

Residential environments pose challenging and often unpredictable physical obstacles that get in the way of wireless signals, and lower frequency spectrum has proven itself as a key tool to overcoming these challenges. While 5G is pushing the benefits of millimeter wave solutions for the larger swaths of available spectrum, in reality, these higher frequencies suffer massive performance degradation when they hit vegetation along the way. Deploying point-to-multipoint solutions in lower sub-6 GHz spectrum helps solve the problem of obstruction. But with less spectrum available at these frequencies, efficient spectrum reuse techniques are critical in order to scale deployments.

“Fixed wireless is not reliable”
The Reality:
Word has it that fixed wireless is just as unreliable as satellite or cellular. Not true! In reality, fixed wireless is often more reliable than even fiber, where one stray jackhammer can cause a lengthy outage and expensive repairs.

Here too, technology advances can make all the difference.  In radios equipped with “Dual Link” capabilities, data can be transmitted on two separate channels, effectively giving you two radios in one. In addition to greater throughput, the redundancy of the second link allows the radio to continue to operate even if interference impairs one channel.

For maximum reliability, upgrading to licensed spectrum can completely eliminate interference issues through a coordination process with other operators.  In the United States, a small fixed fee per site is paid, regardless of the amount of spectrum used, and the operator enjoys an exclusive 10-year license with a 10-year auto-renewal.  It’s a well-honed system of spectrum protection that even small operators can enjoy.

“Fixed wireless is slow”
The Reality:
Fixed wireless was once slow because the channel sizes were small, and the equipment was expensive.  But by taking advantage of incredible advances in consumer Wi-Fi silicon and operating on channels of 160MHz or more, the current generation of fixed wireless products can achieve gigabit connection speeds that rival even fiber connections.  Fixed wireless solutions keep latency low by quickly switching between transmission and reception over modest distances, allowing enterprise-grade applications such as voice to operate seamlessly over the air. Customers are routinely surprised to see fixed wireless achieve speeds far greater than cable, especially with regard to upload speeds.

Any comparison of fixed wireless to satellite internet speeds is misplaced — satellite internet broadcasts from a geosynchronous orbit, giving wide coverage, but the extra distance through space and the earth’s atmosphere creates much higher latency and leads to disappointing service. And while cellular coverage operates like a giant Wi-Fi bubble where any device within range can theoretically connect from anywhere, fixed wireless operates more like an invisible wire connecting two specific locations. For consumers who have relied on old dial-up connections, or satellite for their internet connections, the introduction of fixed wireless broadband into their area can be a game changer.

“Fixed wireless is complex to install”
The Reality:
Given the right tools, fixed wireless is very easy to install, and can be done by technicians with very basic training.

As seen in other areas of technology, apps and software take a lot of the guesswork out of deploying fixed wireless and create a streamlined, automated process.  For example, online design tools can facilitate accurate planning and verify link viability.  Within the last couple of years, the industry has progressed to an “out of the box” model that allows relatively “low tech” installers to aim, connect, and download firmware updates within minutes.  This is an automated process that walks installers through a connection “step by step” and often includes customizable provisioning elements to accommodate different CPE and sLubscriber service attributes.

“Fixed wireless is adversely affected by weather”
The Reality:
Again, the choice of frequency matters.  At frequencies below 10GHz, rain, sleet and snow don’t have much impact on signal propagation. In contrast, satellite internet usually operates in the frequency bands above 10GHz, and outages due to rain can be common, depending upon the dish diameter.  Similarly, in millimeter-wave solutions above 30 GHz, severe “rain fade” limits the practical link distances, or impairs the service availability in months with heavy rain or snow.  In terms of sheer ruggedness, improvements in product design ensure that fixed wireless equipment today can hold up to the elements for many years, guaranteeing high-reliability service for the life of the subscriber.

“Fixed wireless doesn’t work over water”
The Reality:
With the right architecture, fixed wireless solutions can work well over bodies of water, and there are many real-world examples of customers deploying a number of very successful and long over-the-water links. Key tips are to check the Fresnel zone — the ellipse-shaped areas between any two radios — for potential multi-path fading, and to take into account the impact of thermal ducting, a phenomenon of abnormal signal propagation influenced by temperature and humidity.

In the Farallon islands, for example, an over-water link has been successfully deployed to a very remote scientific research station, 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco. They use backhaul radios as a primary link to support VoIP and internet access for researchers on the island, which is fed wirelessly from the Twin Peaks in the heart of San Francisco. The link, seeing speeds of up to 400 Mbps, feeds the station’s HD camera for the California Academy of Sciences, and has proven to be an essential resource for those working on the remote island.

With these myths finally put to rest, fixed wireless should become an important tool in your toolbox when considering future network deployments.


The post Introduction to fixed wireless – debunking the myths: Fact vs. Fiction appeared first on RCR Wireless News.