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Overcoming obstacles to deliver gigabit services in challenging environments

Long jump competition

The demand for greater bandwidth continues unabated. It has done so since the birth of the internet, and our growing reliance on internet-connected digital devices and applications in all aspects of our lives will only drive the need for faster speeds and more capacity. But sometimes, meeting these needs takes teamwork, extra effort or technological ingenuity.

It is widely accepted that the single best medium to deliver broadband is fiber. According to analyst firm Point Topic, as of Q1 2023, 66.7% of all fixed broadband subscriptions globally were fiber-to-the-home or building. That number will continue to go up.

The reasons for fiber’s popularity are its inherent qualities and broad applications: performance, reliability, upgradeability, and its vastly superior contribution to eco-sustainability, to name just a few. Unsurprisingly, service providers of all types – traditional telecommunications operators, cable providers/MSOs, alternative network operators/overbuilders, utility co-ops and municipalities – are building new fiber networks and expanding existing ones.

But bringing fiber to some populations and environments brings distinct challenges. As of 2022, some 2.7 billion people around the world were unconnected. Many others, including those in rural and low-income communities, are underserved, which is why governments around the world have implemented special funding programs aimed at bridging the digital divide. Together with our customers and partners, Nokia is working to connect the unconnected and ensure rural networks have the capacity needed to secure a broadband future.

Another segment that poses a unique broadband delivery challenge is multi-dwelling units (MDUs) including apartments, condominiums and townhouses. Approximately 25% of households in the United States and 45% of homes in Europe are MDUs. Delivering services to this segment represents a large market opportunity, but comes with numerous quandaries.

In the US, access to the building’s inside wiring has been an historical issue. Broadband providers would enter into revenue sharing agreements with building owners to keep alternative operators out. These arrangements eliminated residents’ freedom of choice, possibly locking them into higher prices and lower quality services than they could otherwise get. However, in February 2022, the Federal Communications Commission established new rules that preclude this practice and clear the way for competitive offerings.

Most newer buildings are either outfitted with fiber to each unit at the time they are built, or at least have space in conduits through which fiber can be run. However, a majority of today’s MDUs were constructed without today’s broadband-centric world in mind. Retrofitting these buildings with fiber can be complicated, time-consuming and costly.

On the logistics front, there may be legal or permit issues as with any construction work. Then there’s the coordination with the building’s management and tenants, some of whom may be uncooperative. From a business perspective, the cost and time required could impact expected return on investment. And in many instances, lack of space, impeded access to cable routing or the structure of the building itself may make deploying fiber simply impossible. In these cases, service providers must consider alternative technologies.

Going wireless with either building-wide Wi-Fi or fixed wireless access (FWA), which uses 4G or 5G connections, is an option, but comes with its own set of challenges for ensuring reliable connectivity.

Fortunately, there is a much easier, more cost-effective path to satisfying all parties – the residents, the building owners and the service providers. Use a fiber extension technology and leverage the wiring already present in the building. Doing so overcomes all of the hurdles and roadblocks associated with installing fiber throughout the building and still enables the delivery of gigabit and multi-gigabit connections.

Nokia’s Gigabit Connect solution offers products which use two different fiber extension technologies: and MoCA Access™. They have a lot in common, including that they are managed in a unified manner, as a single pane of glass with the PON to which it is attached, but each has its own advantages and use cases.

Nokia has offered its portfolio for several years and it is very well suited for telecom providers. It delivers gigabit symmetrical service over twisted pair and coaxial cabling in a point-to-point topology. The Nokia Gigabit Connect portfolio with MoCA Access, which uses products from InCoax, was just introduced. The MoCA-based solution is perfectly suited for cable operators evolving to fiber. It provides multi-gigabit symmetrical service over coaxial cabling in a point-to-point or point-to-multipoint topology. MoCA Access can coexist with legacy services, including cable, terrestrial and satellite TV and DOCSIS, a key capability for cable operators that have not yet moved to IPTV, for those wishing to offer multiple service types in the same building, or as part of a gradual FTTH migration.

The need for broadband is universal. Finding ways to fulfill that need sometimes takes the collaboration of government and industry, going the extra mile or the creative use of something old in a new way.

Read more about our newly announced Gigabit Connect with MoCA Access solution.

Don Reckles

About Don Reckles

Don leads cable portfolio marketing for Fixed Networks and sits on the 25GS-PON MSA Steering Committee for Nokia. He has over 20 years of experience in technology including hardware and software solutions for both fixed and wireless networks. He comes up with some of his best ideas while churning out the miles running and biking on road and trail.

Tweet me @donreckles

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