Cable (MSO)

DoubleRadius has been helping our cable/MSO customers grow their businesses with fixed wireless for years. Providing internet service wirelessly has opened doors for new opportunities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. If your company has yet explore the possibilities of fixed wireless, now is the time.

On this page we describe a starting point to understanding fixed wireless as an MSO, and how it can be incorporated in your business model. We also provide a downloadable PDF version to take away. These brief chapters give practical insights, and show examples of cable companies utilizing fixed wireless as an important part of their offerings.

Cable (MSO) Guide

Review the chapters below or download the full guide by filling out the form on this page.

  1. New Opportunities with Fixed Wireless
  2. How CBRS and LTE Increase Growth
  3. Planning Ahead with Fixed Wireless
  4. Cable Fixed Wireless Use Case 1
  5. Cable Fixed Wireless Use Case 2

Chapter 1 - New Opportunities with Fixed Wireless

Multiple Ways of Attracting Customers
Cable providers have been known as “MSOs” (Multiple Systems Operators), or more recently, “MVPDs” (Multichannel Video Programming Distributors). The former refers to the operation of cable systems in multiple communities, whereas the latter refers to the variety of channels being offered. “Multi” is the common denominator, and “multi” rings true in another way for today’s cable provider. Now more than ever, MSOs are offering a multitude of services in addition to TV, including internet, phone, video surveillance, and others.

Growth with Fixed Wireless Broadband
Although many MSOs already offer internet, they may not be aware of the growth opportunity that fixed wireless presents. Even in challenging non-line-of-sight environments, new subscribers can be connected wirelessly. Expanding on their coax and/or fiber infrastructure, MSOs can integrate fixed wireless equipment into their networks as they expand to new communities and customers.

Advantages of Fixed Wireless Over Fiber and Coax
As noted in a guide for ISPs that we also wrote, fixed wireless can be understood as, “a style of networking that involves wireless devices mounted at fixed locations, transmitting signals wirelessly from point to point and ultimately to each subscriber.” (See figure A below for a illustration of a fixed wireless network.) Connecting new internet customers over fixed wireless equipment has several distinct advantages over trenching or boring fiber:

  • Lower bottom line cost
  • Quicker deployment
  • Expansion of coverage area to connect more customers

Elaborating on the last point: Through sophisticated wireless technology like lightly-licensed LTE (discussed in the next chapter), fixed wireless can connect over extremely long distances - even in difficult, non-line-of-sight scenarios.

Even in networks where fiber is the only planned internet infrastructure, fixed wireless can save the day when encountering inevitable dead ends. These are spots where deploying fiber just isn’t economical, timely, or even a possibility at all (ie train tracks, highways, and other major obstacles). As illustrated in figure B below, a fixed wireless “bridge” can literally bridge the gap, enabling the network to reach new areas so more new customers can be won. Fiber traffic can run up to one end of a bridge, be transported across wirelessly without loosing capacity, then continue on from the other end over fiber-to-the-X (FTTX). The “X” here is a reference to a home, business, or any other type of end customer. You can learn more about how fiber and fixed wireless can be used together in our Hybrid Fiber-Wireless ISP Quick Guide.

Temporary Use of Fixed Wireless
Providing temporary fixed wireless service during fiber expansion to new areas is another opportunity no to be missed. Cable companies can provide broadband service immediately to their future fiber customers, using fixed wireless in the interim. Getting new subscribers online initially through fiber secures new customers and adds instant revenue.

Chapter 2 - How CBRS and LTE Increase Growth

Beat the Competition to the Punch with LTE
Operating LTE fixed wireless in low-to-mid bandwidth environments, MSOs can expand their broadband services more rapidly and cost-effectively than their competition that’s using coax and/or fiber. Reaching a larger customer base with broadband speeds will allow MSOs to race past those who are delayed by boring or trenching, and impeded by the higher deployment and customer acquisition costs.

Perfect Timing with LTE and CBRS
In 2018 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band of 3.55 GHz - 3.7 GHz for license holders. This legislation, combined with the technical improvements and affordability of in Long Term Evolution (LTE) equipment over the last few years, now enables MSOs to build their wireless networks to the same standard as large mobile carriers. Thanks to its technical advantages outdoors, LTE will perform well in the CBRS band.

Watching CBRS Developments
DoubleRadius is keeping a close eye on legislation affecting CBRS. When and how devices can be deployed in the CBRS band are contingent upon these laws. To that end, we’ve published a CBRS Update blog series in partnership with a leading LTE equipment manufacturer and CBRS expert. Looking ahead, we’ll post more information on CBRS as things develop. Subscribe to our blog now to stay informed on CBRS news!

Our first blog article of the series mentions the Initial Commercial Deployment (ICD) in the CBRS band allowed by the FCC. The results indicate how fixed wireless operators are already taking advantage of this new opportunity, and how lucrative it will be over the coming years:

Data from ICD shows that fixed wireless access accounts for 41% of all use cases. They predict by 2023, CBRS radio access network infrastructure will generate $700m in revenue.

Chapter 3 - Planning Ahead with Fixed Wireless

Demand for Streaming and Digital Content
Consider the growing demand for streaming content. Although profit margins may still be higher for traditional cable television customers, there is a growing portion seeking online alternatives. ZDnet’s article entitled, "Video Streaming Beats Cable Subscriptions for the First Time" provides a snapshot of this transition:

“It had to happen eventually. People have been turning to cord-cutting for years to avoid paying higher cable and satellite TV bills. Now, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), there are more streaming subscribers than there are cable TV customers.”

The article explains that this occurred over time through a consistent increase in streaming service subscribers paired with a consistent decline in cable TV consumers. Specifics on the recent disparity of in demand for online video services compared to cable is added:

“Online video services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, grew from 2017 to 2018 by 27 percent. All together, there were 613.3 million video streaming subscribers in 2018, while cable subscribers dropped to 556 million customers. This was a drop of two percent.”

Winning the Moment with Fixed Wireless
So how can fixed wireless help? Instead of missing the opportunity to increase subscribers, appealing to their modern mindset about streaming media and digital content by delivering the needed broadband service to provide options can make the difference of winning them as new customers.

Getting Ahead of Cord-Cutting
Consider an article on fixed wireless provider, Starry. Lightreading reports that they’ll soon be able to reach over 25% of all U.S. residences with service that, “tends to attract cord-cutters, with the average sub using about 350 gigabytes of data per month.” The article continues that “Starry is generally viewed as tangential consumer broadband competition to cable operators and other wired ISPs.” Starry is a prominent example, but there are many other fixed wireless ISPs successfully utilizing fixed wireless to grow in the modern marketplace.

Extending Fiber Reach with Fixed Wireless
Another variation of a hybrid fiber-wireless network is shown in figure C below. This type of network involves backhauling in the required bandwidth wirelessly to a new location, then using FTTX to connect those outlying potential subscribers that are not practically reachable with only fiber. This “reverse micro-pop” type network is referenced in the use case in the next chapter. Wireless bandwidth capacity is constantly increasing. Many gigabit microwave links, and even 10-20 Gbps millimeter (higher frequency) links have been deployed, and are now viable options at your disposal. This specific type of hybrid approach offers another way to provide service ready view their content online.

Maximize the Wireless Opportunity
Customers expect broadband like they do a basic utility service, or even a life necessity. They’ll only demand faster service over time, and they’ll be willing to pay for their communications and entertainment needs and desires. Offering wireless internet can be an economical way to quickly win more customers, but wireless can play a much larger role in the big picture of cable company growth.

As referenced above, today’s wireless is capable of delivering multiple Gigabits per second. Designed correctly, a wireless network can outperform coax and compete head-to-head with fiber. A “triple play” of TV, internet, phone, plus other services like video surveillance, can all be delivered over wireless. With good engineering, fixed wireless can provide cable providers with a great advantage over their less innovative competition!

Chapter 4 - Cable Fixed Wireless Use Case 1

Q & A with Joe, Wireless Network Manager

What can you tell us about your company?
"Since the late 90s our company has been providing telecommunications services to homes and businesses in Minnesota. After starting out as a cable provider, we then layered on phone and eventually internet service over time. Today, our triple play of advanced services includes gigabit broadband, feature-rich telephone, and video with over 300 channels to choose from."

What were the decision factors for offering fixed wireless internet?
"My own need to telecommute is what first led us down the road towards wireless broadband. Configuring and trouble-shooting that first 8 mile point-to-point wireless link to my home allowed us to learn what was possible with wireless. The process was made easier by our ability to use existing pole infrastructure for the link. What presented a bit more of a challenge initially was learning the differences of the wireless layer 1 (physical) and layer 2 (data) network compared to a wired network.

"Little did we know, what we were learning was positioning us for a major growth opportunity. When a local competitor closed its doors, we were able to wirelessly provide service and win those customers. This was the first time we offered wireless internet service."

How has fixed wireless helped your business grow?
"After the initial windfall, we begin assessing other practical ways in which wireless could help us grow our customer base and our business. The rather rocky terrain in portions of our coverage area made it impractical if not impossible to reach certain potential coverage areas. Utilizing wireless, we were not only able to expand our customer base by delivering an offering to more rural areas, but we were also able to do so at a fraction of the cost of trenching fiber.

"We found another great usage of wireless internet is the “reverse micro-pop” scenario [see chapter 3 illustration]. This involves backhauling in a high-capacity wireless signal to a tower, where access can then be distributed via fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) in a nearby neighborhood or fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) in a local business park. Now when we think of our network design, we think in terms of “internet,” not fiber, coax or wireless. Used together, these technologies can conquer just about any obstacle that stands in the way of our network’s progress. Having more tools at our disposal is a definite advantage."

What future plans do you have for fixed wireless?
“Due to our innovation and success, we were recently acquired by a news and information company that shares our vision of expanding broadband operations in growing communities. Together, we’re focused on deploying the latest technology with the best service for residents and businesses. We’ll continue to expand our coverage area utilizing wireless into hard to reach locations that are just waiting for service like ours to come along.

“Another offering we’ll expand upon is our tower-based wifi hotspots. We have a series of hotspots at popular locations across our service area which customers can connect to for free, and guests can access anytime with an online credit card payment. As we continue to expand we plan to add additional hotspots with the roll out."

What advice would you offer to MSOs regarding fixed wireless?
“MSOs getting into wireless broadband will make their lives much easier by showing due diligence from the beginning. This means doing research, attending industry events, spending time with those offering wireless, and hiring a wireless consultant to help get things you off the ground. There’s a depth of knowledge and experience to lean on. It will make all the difference to do things right from the start.”

Chapter 5 - Cable Fixed Wireless Use Case 2

Q & A with Kerry, VP & General Manager

What can you tell us about your company?
“Our company is a cable company or MSO that provides digital cable TV & high speed internet (via both cable and wireless) in Northern and Western Texas.”

What were the decision factors for offering fixed wireless internet?
“We started out in 2006 offering cable service, then in 2007 we acquired a local ISP in order to get into the internet business, and to expand our service offerings. The ISP we acquired had cable infrastructure, but we soon learned that wireless internet presented a more economical way of adding subscribers, and a more versatile way of reaching them in new coverage areas, compared to cable.”

How has fixed wireless helped your business grow?
“By offering wireless internet up to 12 Mbps, since 2008 our company has been able to add a base of wireless internet subscribers on top of our cable internet subscribers that has increased our total subs by about 35%. Wireless has also enabled us to expand - not only into more rural outlying communities of 300-400 homes, but also by better saturating existing neighborhoods where we simply didn’t have cable in place on both sides of the streets.”

What advice would you offer to MSOs regarding fixed wireless?
“Customers want fast, consistent service. When going wireless, make sure to invest in the best equipment you can get from the start - from your point-to-point backhaul, to your CPEs, to the cabling. Doing so will pay off in the long run.”


Fixed Wireless in Your Future
The use cases and practicals covered in this quick guide provide a foundation for cable companies considering fixed wireless. This new offering can be an important addition to your success - from new opportunities, to growth, to future planning.

Help with Getting Started
You’ve finished reading our Quick Guide to Fixed Wireless for Cable (MSO), so now what? The idea of starting with fixed wireless may seem a bit daunting. This is where DoubleRadius can really help. Our experienced team of wireless experts is here to answer questions, and help your company take advantage of the latest in advanced wireless technology. We offer support services in the form of:

  • Network Design
  • Onsite Training
  • Startup Phone Support

According to your needs, we can train your team in configuration, installation, basic wireless (RF), and link planing while at your site.