5G: not going the last mile in multifamily communities

By Quantum Fiber
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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 home internet 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.

Short hops

With 5G, shorter is better—shorter distances, that is. The rule of thumb is that 5G speed and signal strength are proportional to distance. The closer a device is to a 5G transmitter, the better it will perform.

Unlike 5G, a fiber internet network can deliver consistent speeds over a strong, reliable connection and, of course, span greater distances. That includes multifamily complexes and whole communities. The key for property owners is to know the advantages of different technologies available and determine which solutions work best. Knowing all the options can help developers and property owners decide on the most practical, cost-effective, worthwhile plan to keep their residents connected and make their community desirable to the tech-savvy.

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.

The importance of layout

A group of builders discuss plans for a multifamily dwelling unit using 5G home internet.

How a multifamily building is designed and structured can also significantly impact the ways property owners can best create a customized connectivity solution. It’s important to remember that a community’s construction, building materials, and layout can impede 5G wireless capabilities. Limitations like rapid signal degradation and poor wall penetration will become apparent very quickly. Since every building is unique, properties need a customized approach—such as fiber-to-the-premises combined with managed WiFi. For all its promise, 5G is still far from a one-size-fits-all fix for multifamily connectivity.

Fiber is the foundation

Despite the differences from community to community, the central nervous system of any connectivity plan for multifamily developments continues to be a robust, dependable fiber-optic network. The qualities of fiber and its capacity to accommodate new and changing technologies make it ideal for tackling residents’ (and owners’) growing and changing needs.

Today, fiber networks and bulk-managed broadband offer multifamily owners a technically superior and far less costly system that can satisfy the needs of tech-savvy residents. More importantly, fiber’s potential is largely untapped. As technologies evolve, fiber can adapt and expand its capabilities to accommodate whatever comes next—decade after decade.

Rely on the right team

It’s vital to work with experts who understand all the available options and tailor connectivity solutions to fit an individual property. Quantum Fiber’s network engineering teams can rapidly assess the power and coverage of available cell and radio signals. Using this information, they can design a unique, customized blueprint for the best possible solution for each building in a multifamily community. The result is a complete connectivity plan that ties together resident and owner needs and the infrastructure present at a particular property.

Read the entire “5G Limits for Multifamily Properties” series:

Part 1: What does 5G mean for multifamily properties?
Part 2: Can fiber networks and 5G come together?

For more on what fiber broadband can mean for your multifamily property, check out:

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Quantum Fiber® Connected Communities provides customized fiber solutions for apartments and communities.

Content Disclaimer - All content is for informational purposes only, may require user’s additional research, and is provided “as is” without any warranty, condition of any kind (express or implied), or guarantee of outcome or results. Use of this content is at user’s own risk. All third-party company and product or service names referenced in this article are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement or affiliation with Quantum Fiber. If Quantum Fiber products and offerings are referenced in the content, they are accurate as of the date of issue. Quantum Fiber services are not available everywhere. Quantum Fiber service usually means 100% fiber-optic network to your location but, 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. ©2023 Q Fiber, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Quantum, Quantum Fiber and Quantum Fiber Internet are trademarks of Quantum Wireless LLC and used under license to Q Fiber, LLC.

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