The growth in wireless bandwidth consumption fueling 5G deployments and small cells is simultaneously fueling the rapid growth in the wireline fiber connectivity business. When it comes to wireless communications, there is fiber at the end of the rainbow.
The reason for this fiber rush is relatively straightforward. When bits traverse the airwaves – be they voice, data or video – the capacity to carry them is limited by the electromagnetic spectrum – i.e. there is only one set of usable frequencies. Wireless providers have a few tricks up their sleeve to grow over-the-air bandwidth and work around this limitation.
- Compress Bits. One way to add capacity is to find more efficient encoding algorithms that pack a greater amount of data into the same frequency range. As technology evolves, spectral efficiency increases allow more bits to be packed into the same channels. Unfortunately, these improvements are few and far between, are dependent on technology providers and have not kept-up with users’ seemingly insatiable appetite for bandwidth.
- Expand Spectrum. Making new spectrum available has been another way to squeeze more capacity out of the airwaves. Over time, ever-higher frequency ranges are being used by communications providers, but there are trade-offs when entering these higher bands. These come in the form of distance and weather attenuation. The higher the frequency, the shorter the distance the signal will carry and the more likely weather is to disrupt connectivity. As microwaves and millimeter waves become exhausted, expanding to smaller wavelengths over the air becomes increasingly impractical.
- Divide Transmitters. Every cell site essentially has access to the entire electromagnetic spectrum (provided it is far enough not to interfere with neighboring transmitters). If two cell towers serve the geography that once was served by one, bandwidth available over the airwaves is essentially doubled because the same frequency can now be used for two simultaneous connections (one for each tower)
While all three options are levers that can be adjusted to grow available bandwidth capacity, operators have the greatest control over the latter. As carriers roll-out 5G services, they are designing smaller cells with lower power that enable more users across a given geography to share the same frequencies simultaneously, as they connect to different sites.
Of course, every new tower, transmitter and small cell must be connected to fiber. Unlike airwaves, each fiber strand contains its own electromagnetic spectrum, so capacity is ultimately only limited by the number of fiber strands available. This creates an opportunity for wireline providers of all shapes and sizes to fulfill new orders and upgrades to support this growth. This growth is creating pinch points for both wireline and wireless provisioning organizations working both ends of the fiber equation in order to stay ahead of consumers. At Axcent, we are able to help alleviate these pressures by delivering fully managed teams and helping organizations challenged with service delivery backlogs and timely customer circuit design and activation. Let us help you stay ahead of demand and meet your aggressive targets.