Embracing the fixed wireless broadband opportunity

The lack of adequate broadband deals has always been acute in rural areas, but customers in suburban and urban areas are also suffering from poor service due to the high cost of laying fibre. But now wireless technology has advanced to the point where it can deliver fibre-like speeds at a much-reduced cost.

One US firm capitalising on this trend is Mimosa, which is carving out a niche for itself in this space with its cloud-managed, fibre-fast wireless solutions. Mimosa believes its solution has set the bar for broadband cost per megabit, which it says comes in at a fifth or sixth of the cost of fibre. 

Jaime Fink, co-founder and chief product officer at Mimosa, explains that the company has evolved four architectures and solution packages to target rural, suburban, urban and enterprise wireless broadband needs.

‘We looked for the sweet spot that would make business sense, assuming we could make it scale. Rural connectivity was the genesis of the idea, where we looked to bridge the gap between rural towers. Our key target markets were those where fibre was not cost effective and there was no cable yet.’ 

For rural areas, Mimosa offers PTP and PtMP fixed wireless systems via its range of backhaul, access and client products. The solution has to transmit over very long distances and be able to penetrate tree foliage without degrading the signal.

Suburban opportunity

However, it is the suburban areas usually serviced only by out-of-date copper solutions that offer the most competitive environment for the wireless internet service providers (WISPs) that use Mimosa equipment. Despite the higher population densities, it is still prohibitively expensive to deploy fibre in these areas.

Mimosa’s suburban proposition is a very short-range solution. In July, it launched its MicroPoP solutions, comprising the A5 access point (AP) and C5 client device. It is designed to enable WISPs to immediately compete with cable and phone providers by rolling out wireless broadband solutions rapidly and cheaply to homes and businesses in dense suburban and urban areas.

APs are typically sited at every one or two residential or office blocks, delivering 200 Mbps to 300 Mbps per client. ‘The MicroPoP was designed to fit a short range - around 200m to 250m to penetrate through to the middle or maybe the other side of the block,’ says Fink.

‘The range is short enough to be able to penetrate tree foliage, so you keep the transmissions short and beamform them, then re-use the spectrum,’ he continues. ‘It provides a very reliable performance over that distance because it is engineered to do so.’ 

A key feature of Mimosa’s solution is the use of Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) and multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) and smart antenna array technologies.

New wireless technology

The company has introduced more MIMO streams (8 by 8) for Wi-Fi and fixed wireless applications, based on fast, low-cost chips from Quantenna Communications. Massive MIMO technology adds more capacity, while antenna beamforming allows the spectrum used by the access points to be reused by multiple clients simultaneously.

Beamforming uses precise geo-positioning information from each wireless client to focus wireless antenna transmit signals towards each individual client, thereby achieving improved focused wireless signals, and significantly reducing interference in the spectrum.

The Mimosa system is also MU-MIMO capable so multiple clients on the same AP can be co-ordinated to simultaneously share spectrum, which improves system scalability and spectral efficiency.

For fixed wireless applications, it is possible to scale spectrum re-use beyond a single access point, and stretch the benefits across an entire network. This enables broadband deployments requiring a fraction of the spectrum previously required, opening up service possibilities in even the highest population density deployments.

‘The ability to re-use channels and spectrum has enabled us to move into this market,’ explains Fink. ‘Now it is about how low cost can you go and can you scale your solution?’

Image Credit: Flex

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.