Time for Rural Telcos to Optimize their Wireless Networks

December 10, 2020
Arn Hayden
thoughtful female freelancer watching laptop in light room at home
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

Tips to Optimize Your Wireless Network’s Performance

In 2020, rural telcos that provide wireless internet access have seen many rapidly developing events that have impacted their businesses.  Instantaneous increases in demand due to COVID, RDOF applications, CBRS Auction and CARES Act money/grants have been pushing rural telcos to optimize network performance and capacity.  In this article, I will address some of the performance issues rural telcos with broadband services are seeing and solutions to optimize wireless networks.

Problems with Broadband Service

This increased demand has left many providers struggling to keep up to their overtaxed networks.  In addition, they are having problems providing reliable service and their customers are starting to look for better alternatives. 

In a recent article , Mike Dano states, “As office workers, students and others continue to seek shelter at home from COVID-19, demand for speedy and reliable Internet service appears to be at an all-time high.  That demand is beginning to have serious effects on the nation’s telecommunications providers.”  “Capgemini recently surveyed 6,300 US consumers and found that almost half (48%) felt their Internet connections didn’t meet their needs.  The firm also found that customers are increasingly looking at their connection’s flexibility and network speeds, rather than just the reliability and price.” 

With so much expansion occurring within internal networks and competitors’ networks, interference can slowly creep in degrading performance.

New users and greater capacity demands are now exposing issues with bandwidth management. Furthermore, poor bandwidth management from inefficient design practices decreases available bandwidth and decrease capacity in the distribution network.


There are solutions, but there are often tradeoffs as well.  The decisions on performance are being driven by market demand and existing capacity. With rapid expansion of user expansion and bandwidth demand, your wireless access points and network can quickly become overburdened. Start with an audit of RF performance by an RF expert to see which problems you are experiencing.

Directional antennas

One solution is using more directional antennas at access points.  This will help performance by:

  • increasing system gain, enabling more capacity
  • creating greater isolation from nearby antennas, reducing interference
  • improving signal to noise ratios, increasing reliability and user experience
  • improving frequency reuse for future growth

micro PoPs

Another solution is using smaller cells or micro PoPs. This can increase capacity, improving the user experience.  Each access point is limited the least common denominator of capacity its users are receiving. As a result, wide ranges of distances from the access points can play havoc on performance. Therefore, tighter variances and shorter distances will help set customer expectations.

Upgrade Equipment

Adding capacity is an obvious solution.  25/3 is no longer the real standard, users are now demanding 100’s of Megs or even Gigabit capacity.   There is a new disruptive carrier class PTP option pushing multiple gigabits per second.  And it is one of the most cost-effective solutions in terms of cost per megabit per second per mile.  This product provides the highest capacity in a single transceiver radio with 2.5Gbps (single radio – 2x112MHz channels) or 1.5Gbps (single radio – 2x80MHx channels) at 4096 QAM. For more information on implementing this system, please visit our Case Study with South Park Telephone Company.

For the distribution network, implementing massive Multi-User MIMO or MU MIMO solutions will provide greater access to users and capacity. Many carriers are using less robust, standard MIMO solutions and are reaching user density thresholds.  Accordingly, they need a technology leap to support more users at higher capacity.  Cambium’s PMP450m (cnMedusa) is a high-capacity multi-point solution that can provide more than 400 Mbps actual usable throughput per sector, and communicate with up to seven Subscriber Modules simultaneously. With 8×8 MU MIMO it provides 4x more spectrum efficiency than any other vendor.  It also impressive Near or Non-LOS capabilities as well for more flexible installations.

Recommended Steps before Buying Equipment

Purchasing microwave equipment is a long-term decision with implications on future needs, sustainability, and total cost of ownership.  A few years ago, Brett Bonomo wrote an article on this topic that covers key questions to ask including:

  • Who supports the product and how much will it cost?
  • Is the feature set adequate and can I live with the limitations?
  • Will the manufacturer outlive my needs?
  • Which vendor offers the most total value?

For more detail visit the complete article at https://castlerockmicrowave.com/selecting-the-right-radio

Would you feel more comfortable hearing from others when evaluating technology?  Great, there is a great Facebook page that hosts over 10,000 members where you will likely find answers to your many questions from companies much like yours.

Migration to CBRS

CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Systems) is now being considered by many telcos for a last mile solution.  If you are not familiar with this newly available spectrum (3550-3650MHz), here is a quick article on CBRS

What are some of the key advantages of CBRS?

  1.  Access to the spectrum is managed through a Spectrum Access System (SAS), where by interference is practically eliminated
  2. Greatly improved Near and Non-Line-of-Sight capabilities

With fewer issues of interference and more flexible antenna locations this means happier customers and fewer truck rolls to tweak your network.

What can you do now for CBRS?

Get your CPI (Certified Professional Installer) certification. 

Companies operating CBRS networks need to employ someone with a CPI, either directly or via consultancy.  There are many online training courses to get certified.  Make sure the training course registers you in the WinnForum CPI database and send your credentials automatically.

Understand the impacts of coverage and power requirements with this new frequency band. 

Castle Rock Microwave can assist you with a coverage comparison analysis or try it yourself if you are familiar with LINKPlanner (Cambium Networks) or Pathloss software.

Help for Telcos

Castle Rock Microwave is a turnkey, regional system integrator for microwave backhaul, fixed wireless broadband and WI-FI solutions for Rural Telcos, Utility Companies and Public Safety agencies.  We view your wireless system as an integral part of your operation and create holistic RF designs with your entire systems, sustainability, and future business goals in mind.  We are vendor agnostic and work with our clients in choosing the best solution for performance, maintainability, and budget in mind. Call us for:

  • Network Optimization
  • Radio Hardware
  • Installation
  • RF and System Design
  • Project Management
  • Surveys
  • FCC Coordination
  • Lifecycle Services


Current market conditions are creating opportunities for rural telcos to expand their users and networks and in some cases with substantial grants.  Wise long-term investments in the correct gear will separate the leaders from the competition.  Make sure your designs are considering all the factors when deploying or optimizing your wireless network and contact Castle Rock Microwave for help at arn@castlerockmicrowave.com or call 303-358-7039.

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