Self-Installation for Fixed Wireless Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted August 1, 2020

With the arrival of COVID-19, remote work, distance learning for schools, and online entertainment has become the norm.  Accessing work systems remotely through desktop sharing or other applications, video conferencing and online meetings, video streaming and online multiplayer games have become common for a much larger customer base.  This has increased the need for higher bandwidth Internet connectivity for existing customers, and expanded the requirement for enabling more households who previously did not have high-speed Internet access.

The traditional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) rely on infrastructure that is expensive and difficult to install, such as phone lines, cable, and more recently fiber.  Many of these solutions have capacity limitations, either due to shared equipment or distance of the home from remote terminal equipment.  

The economical approach is transitioning to Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), which leverages the cellular towers or other structures where base stations can be installed.  This provides a cost-effective and scalable deployment, servicing a large area without the need to run physical cables to each home.  Previously uneconomical areas, such as rural or areas with challenging terrain, can now be included into the service area.  As demand increases, additional base stations can be deployed.

One important consideration for the deployment of FWA is the Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) installation.  Entry-level or basic level FWA may be achieved with indoor CPEs, but reliable high-speed or pro-grade FWA requires outdoor CPEs.  High-speed connectivity uses high-band spectrum, like 5G mmWave, which experiences attenuation of the wireless signal through barriers such as building walls and low-emissivity (low-e) windows.

 

Needing a technician for each new customer is costly and an inconvenience to the customer, requiring someone to be home during the technician visit.  With COVID-19, this potentially exposes the customer and technician to additional risks.  In additional to hiring a team of technicians, support personnel and scheduling assistants are needed, adding to the overhead costs.


The cost-effective and scalable approach is with self-installation CPEs.  The customer is shipped the equipment and provided with instructions on how to perform the installation, quickly enabling the customer for high-speed Internet access at their convenience.  The self-installation CPE contains two components:

1. Indoor Unit (IDU)

The IDU is powered by a wall outlet and contains the wireless power transmitter and other indoor hardware, and attached to the interior of the window.

2. Outdoor Unit (ODU)

The ODU contains the wireless power receiver and outdoor FWA hardware, and is attached to the exterior side of the window opposite the IDU.  Power and data are passed wirelessly through the window pane.

To make the self-installed CPE successful, several factors should be considered:

  • Simplicity:  The average customer can not be expected to follow complicated instructions or understand the technical aspects of an installation.  The procedure has to be simple enough that anyone can install it.

  • Accessibility:  The customer would need to have access for mounting to the window exterior with good reception to the base station.  The window would need to be clean and free of debris and screens, and the operation of the window opening/closing may be impacted.

  • Reliability:  Both the wireless power and data connectivity must be robust and immune to weather, debris, or other interference.  Tolerance to misalignment is needed to allow flexible installations and a good customer experience.

  • Attractiveness:  With a device mounted to the window, the smaller the enclosure, the less obtrusive the device, improving aesthetics.  Customers will not install a device that they consider unattractive.

SWR Technology is a preeminent supplier of wireless power modules and complete FWA solutions.  The wireless power technology from SWR provides high tolerance to misalignment in an industry-leading small form factor, and is compatible with the most stringent insulating glass windows on the market.

(C) 2020  SWR Technology Inc.