After years of hype, all four wireless carriers have begun the 5G roll out. The availability of a nationwide 5G network is still a long way out and currently only a handful of metropolitan areas are being tested by the service providers before 5G is fully rolled out. The 5G network will be potentially faster but there are still several unknowns as far as MDUs (multi dwelling units) are concerned.

Some have suggested that once 5G is fully deployed, apartment residents will no longer need a “wired solution” for television, Internet or voice services.  In fact, most of the cellular “experts” agree that a 5G network will be more vulnerable, all things considered, to the same signal penetration issues that affect the 4G LTE service.  This is due to the frequencies allocated for 5G service.  The fastest of these, millimeter-wave, enables the faster speeds promised by 5G.  However, because 5G uses a higher-frequency than 4G LTE, it will be more impacted by construction materials such as concrete and low-emissivity glass. So, for the time being, wired networks into the building (Fiber/Coax and CAT6 to each unit and common area) will continue to be the best solution for video, data and voice services.

To deal with the lack of good cellular signal inside apartments, some Owners rely on the proliferation of WiFi calling to avoid installation of expensive DAS (Distributive Antenna System) solutions. Properly designed and implemented, WiFi in a resident’s unit can provide residents with fast Internet connection and the ability to make phone calls from WiFi calling capable devices, even when cell service is poor.  Common Area WiFi is often considered to overcome poor cellular coverage in common areas as an added benefit to delivering convenient internet access to highly trafficked lobbies, leasing offices and clubhouses.  Many of our clients use third party “managed” systems in those cases as they provide superior user experience, offer levels of security compliant with law enforcement regulations, and place a provider between the Owner and the user; all of which reduce an Owner’s risk and potential liability should illegal activities be conducted on these “public” networks.

Both 5G network providers and WiFi service companies will be working together to provide internet services to MDUs. As the 5G network becomes more built out, its service capabilities will be realized as will alternatives to bridge the gaps that form from its inherent signal limitations.