Fixed Wireless: How to calculate the REAL cost

20.02.2019 - Steve Collins

Fixed Wireless: How to calculate the REAL cost

There is a proven case for fixed wireless in hard-to-reach areas worldwide. It offers the best available broadband access solution in rural, regional and outer urban locations – and operators in the US, Europe and Australia are increasing the size of their fixed wireless investments.

Cost constraints influence purchasing decisions, and those responsible for these decisions will understand that lifetime ownership costs can far outweigh the initial purchase price of hardware.

To estimate the total cost of ownership with a high degree of precision, decision makers must consider the impact of network rollout costs, support, returns, product lifecycle, device management, upgrades and customer satisfaction over the space of five years.

Network Rollout Costs

Fixed wireless offers a practical and cost-effective solution for the delivery of fast and reliable broadband to homes and businesses located further afield.

When attempting to bring coverage to the unconnected, costs quickly spiral out of control when looking at the last few percent. A recent Innovation Technology and Innovation Foundation testimony stated that: using Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) cost model, analysing the cost of achieving coverage of 98% of locations with ‘future proof’ networks can be achieved for about $40 billion. Achieving the last two percent – going from 98%-100% would double the cost. These areas are unrealistic to serve with wired network technology.

As well as reducing the cost of rolling out wired infrastructure in underserved locations, fixed wireless has the capacity to deliver a fixed line equivalent grade of service, and a known minimum level of broadband speed and performance.

Network rollout costs can be minimised using Wireless Network Terminating Devices (WNTDs) that are built to optimise installation time, performance, accuracy and cost over an operational life.

Significant long-term benefits, such as minimum performance (potentially linked to SLAs), reduce operational costs. And zero maintenance post installation can be achieved using WNTDs that are equipped with an installation tool that is specially engineered to deliver an efficient and professional installation with a known performance level prior to leaving site.

Support Costs

When deciding on the right WNTD – add people costs to the equation.

Site visits, maintenance and operational costs account for a huge portion of the total cost of ownership, so a rich feature set with carrier-grade functionality is essential. To reduce ongoing operational costs, look for WNTDs that feature network grade diagnostics including a rich suite of remote logging and event capturing.

Costs can be curbed using a WNTD that features remote cell survey (Call ID, RSRP) to quickly detect changes in the environment; as well as TR-069 or OMA-DM support for over-the-air upgrades, device configuration, provisioning and the collection of information. WNTDs that have an extensive remote management data model capture a detailed list of performance parameters – allowing for a very wide variety of different network behaviour characteristic to be monitored and analysed. It is the breadth of diagnostics captured that allows confidence in the WNTD installation – preventing site visits down the track when support demands remedial work.

Value can also be gained for some operators from Ethernet OAM support and Y.1731 performance management that includes: link monitoring, rapid recovery, performance testing and troubleshooting.

Cost of Returns

Real cost efficiencies are best achieved using WNTDs that are engineered for longevity and designed to minimise return rates over the product lifecycle. Reliability is critical in keeping costs down, so it pays to look for WNTDs that offer field life reliability covering: in-built lightening surge protection (not requiring a system earth), UV degradation, heat cycling, wind rating and salt fog protection. Most WNTDs on the market utilise communications grade earths to properly perform their voltage surge protection function. The real cost of a communications grade earth is very high – hence the importance of voltage surge protection achieved without an earth. This solution must be field proven to provide system assurance – as it is very hard to model.

Security Costs

Security breaches have a huge financial impact so it is vital that WNTDs provide an optimal level of physical and data security. Hack proof WNTDs should feature a tamper evident SIM card, and software architecture that is specially designed to offer enhanced security features. The firewall and software configuration should guard against open services and customised operator encryption keys should be unique to each device.

Network and Device Upgrades

Operators looking to upgrade and seamlessly scale their network should work with a device partner with demonstrated expertise in this area.

Procure WNTDs that support the latest 3GPP release so the operator can deliver scalable speeds to the end user, and check that the device features double traditional CPU overhead memory (flash + RAM) profiles for the on-board capacity to add additional soft-features and prolong device lifetime.

New Serc

Ongoing gains come from the ability to offer new services. Look for a WNTD that integrates the features needed to deploy services such as VoLTE covering high quality voice calls, instantaneous call (no dial), legacy telephone support, emergency calling (including enhanced positioning services) and legacy gateway support.

Customer Satisfaction

The customer experience is of paramount importance, particularly where long-term timeframes are concerned. The significant costs associated with complaint resolution, customer churn and reputation can be drastically reduced using carrier-grade WNTDs that are professionally installed and engineered to provide a managed wireless connection that delivers a known minimum level of broadband performance with the capacity to support triple-play services without fail.

Real Off-The-Shelf Costs

When considering the feasibility of an off-the-shelf solution, it is important to factor in the real costs over the lifetime of ownership.

A real Fixed Wireless solution that is built to meet exacting network specifications may have a higher initial purchase price per unit, but the lifetime cost is reduced with a device that is network managed – so the WNTD is owned, installed and managed by the operator.

NetComm Wireless’ Wireless Network Terminating Devices deliver all of the above mentioned capabilities, and feature: a rugged IP rated enclosure to endure extreme conditions over a long lifetime, installation tools to ensure the truck roll can be executed quickly and efficiently, zero touch once installed, enough memory + RAM to ensure additional software features can be applied to the device, remote diagnostics and support with a radio frequency link budget that can be planned and controlled by the operator or infrastructure vendor.

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Steve Collins

Chief Technology Officer, Netcomm Wireless