100% seems like a rarity these days. We’re pretty good at saying we’re trying for or giving 100% (or even 110% if you’re a sports coach), but the reality tends to fall somewhat short of the aspiration.
Broadband coverage is no exception. I passionately believe in the socio-economic benefits of ubiquitous ultra-broadband and, if you’ve been around the industry as long as I have, you probably agree. That’s why I get really excited by any breakthrough that brings us closer to 100% broadband coverage.
So how do broadband providers achieve it when obstacles keep getting in the way? You know, little things like geography, civil works, building regulations and costs. Even the most fiber-rich deployments are not achieving 100% coverage of their serving area. Those left unserved by fiber are left wondering why their neighbor gets a gigabit, while they are served with decades-old technology at decades-old speeds.
Wireless PON (WPON) is a breakthrough that is getting me excited again, and I’ll be sharing the good news tomorrow, April 25, in a joint webinar with Total Telecom: Getting to gigabit with unlicensed mmWave. While fixed wireless access (FWA) technologies have been around for a while, it’s only thanks to the freeing up of spectrum and recent advances in 5G and Wi-Fi standards that FWA has truly become a viable alternative to a fixed broadband connection. Of course, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) or business is still the ultimate end goal, but broadband operators need a mix of technologies – different tools in the toolkit – to serve as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
With WPON, fiber-like speeds are extended to areas where deploying fiber itself is too difficult, time-consuming or costly (or all three). Wireless PON uses unlicensed Wi-Fi technology (specifically 60 GHz 802.11ad) as a wireless drop in a fiber access network. The high-bandwidth of WPON lets operators deliver gigabit services to customers. But without the need to dig, destroy or connect anything physically, the cost is vastly reduced – up to 50% lower TCO than FTTH in some cases. WPON nodes can daisy-chain together to provide its own backhaul, meaning it can be used to serve a single property or an entire neighborhood.
Unlicensed 60 GHz wireless is enjoying a lot of attention these days with a growing ecosystem of solutions. Perhaps the most vocal player is Facebook with its Terragraph solution, something we’re proud to be working on with them.
Standards are evolving too: 802.11ad includes many features that make it very useful for FWA applications, but this is almost by chance. The next generation standard, 802.11ay, has specific FWA capabilities by design. The promise is to increase throughput by up to 4x with more spectrum availability though channel aggregation and bonding. Interference will be reduced with the addition of Time Division Duplexing (TDD), which will eliminate transmit and receive conflicts. 802.11ay also adds MIMO functionality to increase resiliency and throughput, while mitigating interference.
So as communication service providers search for new ways to increase ultra-broadband coverage, fixed wireless access, and WPON , will allow them to deliver gigabit services where no fiber has gone before, 110%.
Join us for the webinar to learn more.
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