Smart Building

5 Big Wireless Challenges: Signal Loss, Movement, Reach, Densification and Multipath Fading

Ron Tellas

So much is going on in the world of wireless as more people and devices connect through the air instead of through wires. Wireless is changing rapidly, with 5G, CBRS, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E initiatives on the horizon (not to mention the increased reliance on connectivity brought on by COVID-19 earlier this year).

As we learn more about upcoming wireless initiatives, it’s also important to revisit some of the inherent challenges involved with deploying a reliable wireless network. We’ve rounded up the top 5 wireless challenges, along with ways these wireless challenges are being addressed.

1. Attenuation or Signal Loss

The farther they travel, the more wireless signals begin to lose their strength. This equates to attenuation (or weakening signals).


Bringing outdoor wireless signals indoors isn’t as straightforward as it seems. As signals from outdoor transmitters attempt to come inside, they can be attenuated to the point that connectivity is no longer possible.


Many barriers can interfere with bringing in outdoor wireless signals for indoor use:

  • The structure itself (glass, steel, masonry and concrete)

  • Trees and dense landscaping

  • Hills, mountains bluffs or other physical barriers

  • High user/population levels

Unfortunately, you can’t just place an antenna on the outside of the building to use signals from a nearby cell tower. This creates capacity and overcrowding issues, resulting in poor throughput. There are specific steps and strategies that must be followed to successfully bring wireless signals indoors.


2. Movement/Time Variance

The best part of a wireless connection is that it allows us to be mobile. Your device doesn’t have to be connected via a hard wire … it stays connected to the network as you move around.


So what good is wireless that tethers you to a certain spot to maintain a connection? A reliable wireless system needs to support connectivity no matter where the users are, how they move or where they place their devices.


3. Reach

To boost data transmission and expand bandwidth for applications like streaming video, the industry has been moving toward higher wireless signal frequencies, such as 5 GHz and mmWave.


As devices compete for space on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, we’ve had to investigate higher-frequency spectrums (the lower frequencies are already in use). This has led us most recently to a shared-spectrum approach for 6 GHz (Wi-Fi 6E) and 3.5 GHz (CBRS) bands.


In most cases, higher frequencies result in a shorter range. Low-frequency signals can penetrate walls and floors better than higher-frequency signals, so their reach extends farther.


For example: Because of its wider and unused bandwidth, Wi-Fi 6E is more appropriate for close-range indoor connections between devices located in the same space (think stadiums, arenas, campuses, etc.).


4. Network Densification

Wireless networks see new users and devices every day. No matter how quickly these numbers increase, connectivity is still expected.


This growth leads to network collision, which is caused by multiple devices attempting to transmit data at the same time (so nothing gets through). On a wired network, when collision is detected, packets of information can be resent. The only choice for optimal wireless service is to make sure collision doesn’t happen.


5. Multipath Fading/Interference

When signals are transmitted, they don’t always take a direct path. Instead, they bounce off nearby indoor/outdoor objects and reflect back at different times, which can result in signal deterioration (delayed signals all carrying the same information). Proper steps must be taken to remove those delayed signals.


The Best Way to Address Wireless Challenges
Now that you’re aware of these wireless challenges, what can be done to fix them? The best approach is to deploy improved technology through methods like:

  • MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output), which supports the transfer of more data at the same time

  • OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiple access), which divides wireless channels into smaller frequency allocations so multiple clients with varying bandwidth requirements can connect to a single wireless network at the same time

Ensuring excellent wireless performance also depends on cable balance. To be well balanced, voltage and current on each conductor of the pair must be equal in magnitude and phase. The two insulated conductors must be physically identical in terms of diameter, concentricity and dielectric material; they must also be uniformly twisted, which requires precise design and manufacturing.


A cable with outstanding balance protects networks from damaging effects of outside noise, which is essential for wireless networks so data signals can reach endpoint devices without slow speeds or downtime.


To help overcome some of these wireless challenges, there are well-balanced cabling systems designed specifically to support wireless systems. Belden’s REVConnect® 10GXW System is a great example. It features:

  • Best-in-class noise immunity (4 dB of PSANEXT and 10 dB of PSAACRF headroom) to eliminate slow network speeds, ensure uptime and support wireless access points

  • A small diameter to help you maximize the number of cables you can fit inside a conduit, as well as support fast deployment

  • Excellent performance in high-density, high-bandwidth applications, exceeding 100 m channel requirements in certain applications

Want to learn more about cabling to support in-building wireless and Belden’s REVConnect 10GXW System? Watch our recent webinar on demand!