by Joanne Hovis
As the nation continues to ride out a pandemic that will persist for months, the need is acute for fast and inexpensive broadband rollout. Many communities have thrown up their hands because there are no LTE hotspots to be found on the market (the supply delay is many months at this point) and because network construction seems like it could take years.
But it’s important to know that you have options to deploy new facilities – options that can be exercised in days or weeks, not years. Earlier, we shared some ideas for using fiber, mmWave, and Wi-Fi to get services to the unserved. Today, we’d like to share more detail for how you can connect 1,000 or more households in a town or city for less than $500,000, possibly considerably less.
These rapid deployments would be engineered to provide broadband speeds (at least 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload) using backbone fiber, point-to-point wireless, and Wi-Fi solutions.
Every building or development will require custom analysis and design, but here we generalize for three development scenarios: small multi-family buildings, closely spaced single-family homes, and large apartment buildings.
Scenario 1: Free connectivity to small multi-family buildings
Let’s say you wanted to serve a collection of buildings of around two to four floors each. Each floor has four to six units and a shared hallway or other central area, which could be either outdoor (as will be typical in the South) or indoor.
We’ll assume that a lead stakeholder (perhaps the city or county, a local university, or a utility) has fiber to a location within a half-mile of this development. We’ll also assume that the lead stakeholder will take responsibility for installation, maintenance, and operations. And we’ll assume that the service will be delivered for free – so as to remove all barriers to use – thus also keeping operating costs low by eliminating the need for marketing, billing, and other back-office tasks.
The new facilities would include mmWave wireless equipment to bring bandwidth from the fibered location to the buildings to be served, as well as Wi-Fi access points on each floor, one for every four units, installed in the hallways so as not to require installers to enter private homes.
Our budgetary cost estimate for equipment and deployment (including installation labor but not including operating costs) is $500 to $750 per household, though the number could be considerably lower depending on where the fiber is located and the costs of labor locally.
Scenario 2: Free connectivity to single-family homes in a neighborhood
In a scenario where the residences are detached single-family homes, we will assume there is fiber and bandwidth available within one mile of central or “anchor” locations in the neighborhood. These central locations will, in turn, need clear lines of sight to the homes.
We further assume that each home is 300 feet to one mile (depending on the obstructions between the antenna on the building and the end user home) of the central anchor locations. If the home is more distant from the anchor, a community mast will need to be erected, increasing costs.
As before, we assume the municipality or other stakeholder is willing to do installation, maintenance, and operations and that the service will be delivered for free.
Here the network will consist of mmWave wireless equipment to bring bandwidth from the fibered building rooftop to the rooftops of the central anchor sites, at which, in turn, the bandwidth is distributed to Wi-Fi access points at each home.
A conservative budgetary cost estimate for equipment and deployment (including installation labor but not including operating costs) would be $500 to $1,000 per household – again with the potential for significant savings depending on local considerations.
Scenario 3: Free connectivity to larger multi-family buildings in an urban area
This scenario involves a large apartment building such as a high-rise public housing site. As before, we assume there is fiber and bandwidth available from a point-of-presence to a building within a half mile of the locations to be connected or, even better, to the building itself.
We also assume each building to be served is high-rise and that the rooftop is available and accessible to place mmWave equipment. As before, we assume the municipality or other stakeholder is willing to do installation, maintenance, and operations; and that the service will be delivered free.
In this case the network will start with a point-to-point wireless solution using mmWave equipment to bring bandwidth from the fibered building to the rooftop of the building to be served. From there, cabling from the mmWave radio on the roof will reach a switch in a secure closet in the building.
From there, bandwidth can be distributed within the building in one of two ways. The first uses existing wiring to each unit (which requires installation in each unit). The second uses Wi-Fi access points on each floor, one for every four units, installed in the hallways so as not to require installers to enter the residences.
The budgetary cost estimate for equipment and deployment (including installation labor but not including operating costs) would be $500 to $750 per household, with significant savings possible if the fiber directly reaches the building or based on other factors.