The Internet Access Problem in Multi-Dwelling Units2023-08-04T15:19:24-04:00

As of the 2019 US Census, nearly 24% of the US population lived in a multiple-dwelling unit (MDU) with more than four or more units per structure.  And the trend over the past few decades shows that this percentage has been steadily increasing.  Furthermore, over 90% (?) of these structures were built before 2010, indicating the vast majority were not wired with fiber to each unit. 

Yet, while service providers continue to rapidly deploy fiber with an eye towards increasing their “homes passed” metric, they focus on serving the easily fed single-family units (SFUs) along these routes, bypassing the MDUs due to the difficulties and expense of bringing fiber to each door.  

Broadband service providers have traditionally looked upon these buildings as risky and unworthy of the effort.  Rewiring for fiber is costly, messy, disruptive, and oftentimes simply impossible due to the presence of asbestos or other hazardous materials.  Historical preservation can present retrofit nightmares, and drilling through thick concrete slab floors is never cheap and quick. Given the high installation expenses and the extended duration of going live with an operational fiber solution, recovery of those costs requires a guaranteed minimum take-rate which is often difficult to achieve.  Further challenging the business case has been the regulations governing access to the inside wiring, and the associated limitations that are placed on the options of the property owners (more on this changing landscape later). 

The Digital Divide – Disparities in Internet Service

This practice has contributed to what has been termed the “digital divide.”  The availability of broadband in MDUs, such as condominium buildings and apartments, is directly linked to a family’s economic prospects, fostering growth, and creating avenues for financial stability.  Access to high-speed internet services has become an essential tool for education, job opportunities, healthcare, and financial services.  Fast connections and wireless networks empower entrepreneurship, online business ventures, and e-commerce opportunities, thereby improving income potential.

Not only has this created a digital divide for the tenants in these buildings despite the nearby access to fiber, but operators have effectively walked away from a quarter of their potential revenues due to the perceived challenges.  With fiber already at the curb, if the building’s existing wiring infrastructure could be leveraged to support low-latency fiber-like gigabit speeds, operators could take advantage of their unique product offering and marketing talents to grow their subscriber base by appealing to property managers and building owners.

The Positron GAM is the key to unlocking the hidden potential of the brownfield multi-tenant residential building market for service providers.  Over 200 SPs have used the GAM to turn old coax or telephone pair wiring into virtual fiber.  Common applications include:

  • Multi-dwelling Units (MDU)
  • Multi-tenant Units (MTU)
  • Hospitality
  • Student housing
  • Campuses and military bases
  • Senior Living and healthcare facilities
  • Garden-style homes and apartment complexes
  • Commercial centers and malls
  • RV and mobile home parks

The Internet Service MDU Residents Need

The applications and devices driving and enhancing professional productivity, enriching personal connections, and creating rich entertainment experiences are coming at us at an astounding rate and with breathtaking quality and realism.  Essential ingredients that all of these rely upon are ultra-fast speeds, low-latency throughput, and secure connections free from outside intrusion.  An MDU’s communications network must be able to support advanced applications for each individual user, including:

  1. Video streaming and online entertainment require bandwidth to deliver HD and UHD content without buffering or interruptions.
  2. Online gaming platforms with real-time interaction and multiplayer capabilities mandate low latency connections.
  3. IoT devices that enable smart homes, automation, and real-time security often require instantaneous response times for efficient control and monitoring.
  4. Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) applications such as immersive gaming, virtual meetings, and virtual tours, demand high bandwidth connections to deliver high-quality, latency-free experiences.
  5. Cloud services and data storage requires a broadband connection that can allocate full gigabit bandwidth as needed in either the downstream or upstream direction.
  6. Education and E-Learning utilize live lectures and interactive content that need a reliable connection for seamless educational experiences. 
  7. Telemedicine and remote healthcare have allowed for remote consultations and monitoring and real-time data exchange between provider and patient.  These applications require low-latency video and medical data security. 

The GAM Solution – Solving Broadband & MDU Challenges

The GAM solution set consists of a headend controller and endpoint devices.  The controller receives the incoming  broadband WAN service feed and acts as a specialized non-blocking Ethernet switch to reliably deliver managed gigabit within MDU and MTU properties, distributing the bandwidth to each unit over coax or twisted pair copper.  

The controller is typically fed by a fiber (e.g., Active Ethernet, GPON, XGS-PON) or fixed wireless access (FWA) service via one or two 10 gigabit SFP+ interfaces (supports up to 20 Gbps). Indoor rack mount form factors are available for mounting in a typical MDU main distribution frame (MDF) or intermediate distribution frame (IDF) location.  Environmentally hardened enclosures are available for outdoor mounted applications and can even be reversed powered from the endpoint units.

The small endpoint devices terminate each feed in the residence’s apartment, converting the signal to Ethernet where it then typically feeds the tenant’s Wi-Fi gateway.

The graphic below provides a condensed view of the product family.  

throughput vd distance coax

The copper twisted pair GAMs (-M models) can deliver Gigabit services to 450 feet over 24-gauge CAT3 wiring using a single pair (SISO mode).  Or using two pairs on a single port (MIMO mode), that reach can be extended to 800 feet (250 meters). 

GAM over copper

The coax GAMs (-C models) leverage the coaxial infrastructure to deliver Gigabit performance over a distance of 2600 feet (800 meters) on RG-6 cabling typically used inside MDUs.  

GAM over coax

Since natively operates in point-to-multipoint mode with standard coax splitters (up to 1:16 per port), it is possible to serve up to 16 subscribers per port.  And uses RF spectrum below 200 MHz, allowing for seamless sharing of the coaxial cabling with satellite services such as Direct TV™ or DISH™ coupled with popular Single Wire Modular (SWM) satellite TV distribution solutions.

Simplicity Through Convergence

By implementing a carrier grade, Ethernet-based distribution backbone across an MDU’s legacy wiring, service providers realize operational simplicity, cost efficiency, scalability, and improved service delivery.  Converging voice, video, and internet using the GAM distribution model in MDUs reduces the complexity of the network resulting in simplified installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting.  For an MDU property owner, it becomes possible to avoid the expenses associated with deploying and managing separate infrastructures for each service, which reduces equipment costs, cabling requirements and overall operational expenses.  Moreover, it offers flexibility for future upgrades like smart building IoT devices and services without extensive infrastructure overhauls.  Dynamic allocation and sharing of bandwidth based on priority and demand ensure optimal performance across all services.


Positron is the leading supplier of solutions specifically designed for gigabit broadband distribution over the existing wiring in small, medium, and large MDU/MTUs.  As a proven solution with over 200 Service Provider customers and growing rapidly, the GAM delivers fiber-like performance at a fraction of the cost without the headaches of rewiring. is gaining rapid adoption as the only technology that can deliver reliable, near-symmetric gigabit bandwidth for brownfield MDUs. Our expansive portfolio  of GAM Internet solutions can address all legacy wiring configurations, mounting locations, and powering challenges, and will support the subscriber security, mobility, and scalability demanded by today’s clientele.  With a team of technology and implementation partners that can deliver a full-property, seamless and secure ultra-broadband experience backed by 24/7 monitoring and support, we’d be honored to help you elevate your MDU subscriber experience!

GAM copper indoor scaled

GAM for Copper Indoor

GAM Copper Outdoor

GAM for Coax Indoor

GAM for COAX indoor scaled

GAM for Copper

GAM for COAX Outdoor

GAM for Coax

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