What would make me climb out on the roof in Minneapolis in November? Unseasonably warm weather and the chance to see the dishes for AT&T’s fixed-wireless millimeter wave service for apartment buildings.
It’s a slick way to bring real broadband speeds to apartment buildings (well any building) faster, cheaper and with less construction than deploying fiber. The idea is to bring fiber to a basecamp building – then use line of sight, licensed spectrum wireless connection to share that capacity with neighboring buildings. It’s point to point so the basecamp needs a separate dish to serve each remote building but the speeds apparently maintain up to two miles.
The demonstration I saw was in Uptown Minneapolis, which is a sea of apartment buildings. The idea is that once installed the wireless broadband connects to the building network and is distributed to the individual apartments (or businesses). It makes the case for good wiring for any new buildings.
They are running the test in Minneapolis at Gig access – but could easily upgrade to faster speeds should demand increase. There is the base camp building and two remote buildings. Currently the peak speeds are closer to half of capacity and they provide service to about 350 apartments.
For the end user, the solution is pretty plug and play and the speeds I saw on the test laptop were more than 700Mbps up and down. And in the model apartment, they had the choice of several plug and play broadband providers.
So again, it’s slick but with a two-mile limit, it’s really an urban or densely-populated suburban solution. Great news for those areas and it’s good to see people get good broadband and better competition (they bundle with video from Direct TV and have mobile options) but it really makes the point that as urban options get faster and faster, the divide between urban and rural gets deeper.