In real estate, maximizing value is mostly about location and specs. Similarly for wireless networks, maximizing coverage and bandwidth entails location of wireless equipment and the allocation of spectrum & bandwidth. Frequency selection is important as it impacts variables such as signal range, throughput, and interference. When it comes to Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) on non-cellular networks, there are generally fewer restrictions on spectrum utilization when compared with mobile carrier networks. Furthermore, finding FWA site locations is often more flexible than their cellular counterparts. That said, frequency selection is still critical for optimal performance for local subscribers that often demand much greater data throughput speeds compared with mobile subscribers.
Top 7 Considerations for FWA Spectrum Selection
In general, FWA deployments use higher frequency spectrums to support higher bandwidth requirements. But there are some drawbacks to using higher frequencies, such as lower coverage and penetration through buildings and other obstructions. Here are the top seven considerations for FWA spectrum selection to help wireless operators accommodate local subscribers with the optimal balance of coverage and bandwidth.
1. Number Of End-Users
Due to the inverse relationship between frequency and range, it’s best to estimate the number of end-users before selecting how much throughput is required. While LTE provides users with hundreds of megabits per second, 5G FWA will be able to provide users with gigabits per second throughput rates. The extremely high speed is made possible by a radio access technology that can make use of a spectrum that has hundreds of megahertz of bandwidth. This huge increase will allow for an increased number of end-users that can access connectivity.
2. Density Of End-Users
The density of end-users in an area will also have to be taken into consideration. In areas of higher user density, higher spectrum can be considered. One major benefit that 5G fixed wireless has over lower frequencies is that it will be able to provide speeds that are comparable to fiberoptics. And to combat increased attenuation, beamforming and other advanced antenna design can reduce the need to overestimate the number of site locations required.
3. End-User Applications
As end-users increasingly adopt gaming, video conferencing, and even metaverse applications, the need for greater speed and lower latency becomes a necessity. With the latest wireless technologies, the low latency of 5G access could be a key factor in the adoption of 5G FWA. This will allow users to upload and distribute large files that need significant compression, like high-resolution video, with less bandwidth. Adaptive bitrate streaming can also optimize media consumption, as it can adapt to changing network conditions.
4. Nearby Obstructions
The radio link for high frequencies, especially mmWave, can deteriorate due to nearby obstructions. As a counter, antennas may need to be placed higher than nearby trees, structures, and even leaves. Alternatively, gateways and repeaters may be strategically placed to maximize coverage without having to tower above as many obstacles as possible.
5. Local Weather
Weather conditions can also play a part in the degradation of radio signals. Whether it’s rain or humidity or even leaves, signal propagation may be severely limited based on expected weather patterns of every network deployment area. In areas of tougher weather conditions, FWA’s last-mile benefit may even need to be narrowed to be several hundred feet or less.
6. Placement of Equipment
Especially with higher frequencies, the equipment location also has to be taken into consideration. The radio link for mmWave 5G can deteriorate when it comes into contact with obstacles, as touched on above. It is also beneficial for 5G equipment to be in Line of Sight (LoS) of the radio signal.
7. Proximity to Fiber Infrastructure
Households that are considered too far away from existing fiber infrastructure will require additional repeaters to provide sufficient coverage. In these cases, antenna technologies such as beamforming make it more efficient to propagate signals further without significant loss. The narrow mmWave beams can easily be redirected, and signals from multiple user terminals can be multiplexed simultaneously on the same frequency. It might not have been cost-effective to invest in extending the fiber infrastructure to these remote areas, but with technology like beamforming, providing coverage to these areas will be possible.
For FWA deployment, both equipment location and spectrum selection are critical. There are many obstacles in using higher frequencies but there are many technologies to overcome these limitations. Whether you’re a wireless ISP (WISP) or mobile carrier, Airwaive can help you across different stages of network planning and deployment. Our platform includes a free RF planning tool that allows FWA operators to analyze spectrum impact on a 3D map of any address worldwide. Using customized 3D software, you can easily select a frequency and adjust the placement of wireless radios to view coverage and line-of-sight analysis in real-time. After locking down RF planning, Airwaive also enables you to identify and filter potential sites to build out your wireless networks. Schedule a demo today to get access to Airwaive’s suite of free site planning and acquisition tools.