5G: Not Going the Last Mile in Multifamily Communities

In The Local News,

5G: Not going the last mile in multifamily communities.

There's an old saying that "the longest mile is the last mile home." If you've been on a long road trip, you know it’s true.

Traveling from one major city to another, most of the journey is probably on the interstate, moving at high speeds. Reaching your destination—the last mile of the trip—is often more complex. It means exiting the super-highway and winding through a maze of side streets, traffic lights, and congestion.

For some multifamily property owners, "last mile" internet connectivity might seem just as complicated. It's that final communications hand-off bridging an internet provider's network and the residents of a multi-dwelling community. It's important to note that the majority of fiber-enabled properties receive fiber all the way to the premises or living unit—making for a much smoother last mile. For some communities, though, there may be other technologies involved and different challenges. Recently, some of the last mile discussion has shifted toward what role 5G might play.

Wireless but not limitless

Like any wireless technology, 5G uses radio signals to send data and information back and forth through the air. And, just like any radio signal, 5G signals become weaker as they travel further away from their transmitter. In fact, the high-density characteristics of 5G waves cause them to dissipate quickly. What's worse is that the signal breaks down even further when it hits solid walls, Low-E glass, building materials like concrete or steel, or even environmental landscapes like dense foliage

For multifamily owners, it's essential to remember just what 5G is—and what it is not. While advanced, 5G is still cellular phone technology. If a building has indoor coverage problems with earlier cellular systems (2G, 3G, 4G), 5G won't perform differently. 

Due to these types of interference issues, property owners won't find outdoor, over-the-air 5G networks to be reliable solutions for providing service or connectivity inside their buildings. If a community doesn't have a managed WiFi system inside its walls, residents may find staying connected while using their phones or smart devices difficult. As they roam from outdoor spaces back inside their apartments, they will likely run into signal drops. These lapses in coverage will be glaringly obvious (and frustrating) for anyone streaming content or making video calls as they move around. For the time being, it seems, WiFi will continue to be the primary indoor solution for transmitting data and voice.

Solutions vary by location

For multifamily owners, augmenting and optimizing internet connectivity for their residents should be solutioned by experts. Options and solutions can be as unique and varied as each building or community. For example, a high-rise complex in the heart of downtown faces an entirely different set of challenges than a community of townhomes out in the 'burbs.

Figuring out a wireless strategy can also depend heavily on a property's existing infrastructure. The availability of a pre-existing fiber network, like Quantum Fiber, wireless access points, radio networks, or nearby cell towers can all help determine the best way forward for developers and property owners.

Read the rest of this article and the entire “5G Limits for Multifamily Properties” series.

Although our fiber service usually means 100% fiber-optic network to your location, in limited circumstances Quantum Fiber may need to deploy alternative technologies coupled with a non-fiber connection from a certain point (usually the curb) to your location in order to provide the advertised download speeds.

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