June 6, 2024

Indoor vs Outdoor CPE: Which is best?

Market Context

With the emergence of 5G technology, the importance of robust Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) has never been more pronounced. CPE includes a range of network devices, including routers, modems, and access points installed at the end-user's location to facilitate internet connectivity. This equipment is essential to households and businesses alike, as it bridges the gap between telecommunications networks and customers’ local networks.  

The 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) market is experiencing rapid growth. In 2023, the global market for 5G FWA CPE was valued at USD 1.61 billion and is projected to skyrocket to USD 18.93 billion by 2032, with an impressive average annual growth rate of 31.5%. By 2026, it is estimated that 144 million households will utilize 5G FWA for home broadband, marking a staggering 480% increase. This surge highlights the importance of robust connectivity solutions in an increasingly digital world. With shipments projected to grow by over 70%, mmWave-capable devices are also seeing significant interest.  

As more households and businesses adopt 5G FWA for broadband, CPE devices, become essential in bridging the connection between service providers and end-users. These devices enable seamless and efficient internet access, crucial for supporting the increasing number of connected applications and services in today's digital landscape​​.

The importance of selecting the right type of CPE

For telecommunications and network service providers, CPE is a critical component in delivering seamless and reliable services. These devices bridge the provider's network infrastructure with the customer's local network, ensuring efficient data transmission and reliable connectivity. CPE is strategically significant as it directly impacts service quality, user experience, and operational efficiency, making its deployment and management a key consideration for maintaining competitive advantage in the market.

In selecting the right CPE, several critical factors directly influence the success and efficiency of the service provided. These factors include:

  • Cost compared to ARPU: Understanding the cost of CPE relative to the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is crucial for ensuring economic viability and profitability. It’s important to balance the upfront and ongoing costs of CPE with the expected revenue generated from each user.  
  • Agility of deployment: The ability to quickly deploy and configure CPE can significantly affect a provider's responsiveness to market needs and customer demands. Agile deployment capabilities ensure that services can be scaled and adapted as required.
  • Impact on network performance: The chosen CPE must support high-performance standards, as it directly affects the speed, stability, and reliability of the network. This is essential for maintaining customer satisfaction and minimizing service disruptions.  

Indoor CPE

What is indoor CPE?

Indoor Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) refers to network devices such as routers, modems, and access points installed within residential or commercial spaces. These devices are designed for controlled indoor environments, shielded from outdoor elements.

Service providers often leverage these deployments to offer targeted solutions, driving growth and customer loyalty.

Benefits of indoor CPE

Indoor CPE devices offer several benefits, including ease of installation, protection from environmental factors, and aesthetic integration with home or office interiors.

  • Cost-effective deployment: Indoor CPEs are generally easier and less expensive to install compared to outdoor units, as they don't require specialized mounting or weatherproofing. Indoor equipment is less exposed to environmental factors, leading to lower maintenance and replacement costs.
  • Ease of installation: Indoor CPE devices are generally plug-and-play, requiring minimal technical expertise to set up. This makes them accessible for average users who need a quick and straightforward installation process​. Prospective users can order service and be connected to the network a day later once the CPE arrives.
  • Better protection from environmental factors: Being indoors, these devices are not exposed to weather conditions like rain, extreme temperatures, or dust, which can prolong their lifespan and maintain performance integrity​.
  • Aesthetic integration with home/office interiors: Indoor CPE devices are designed to blend seamlessly with home or office decor, often being compact and visually appealing, thereby not disrupting the aesthetic of the space​.

However, to fully benefit from indoor CPE, certain requirements must be met. First and foremost, Indoor CPE devices need to be placed near a power outlet, ensuring a stable power source for its operation. For optimal performance, indoor CPE should be strategically located near a window to assure good signal reception and distribution throughout the space. This helps in maintaining strong connectivity across all areas within the building.

Significant drawbacks of indoor CPE include:
  • Signal obstruction due to walls and other barriers: Walls, furniture, and other indoor obstructions in indoor environments can weaken signals, leading to potential connectivity issues. Other electronic devices within the premises can also cause interference, impacting the performance of the CPE.
  • Limited coverage area: Due to their lower gain antennas (compared to outdoor CPE) and signal attenuation due to obstructions, indoor CPEs generally have a more limited coverage area compared to outdoor units. As a result, households using indoor CPEs must be located relatively closer to the connected cell tower, whereas households using outdoor CPE can maintain a high Quality of Service from a distance further away from the cell tower.  
  • Capacity limitations:  Due to lower spectral efficiency and signal attenuation from walls, energy-efficient windows, or any other barriers, indoor CPEs must use 2 to 3 times as much resources (spectrum) as outdoor CPEs. As a result, indoor CPEs contribute relatively more to network congestion, which will impact the Quality of Service of all users on the same network. In fact, providing the 20% worst located households with outdoor CPE rather than indoor CPE can increase network capacity by 60%.  

Due to the ease of installation and its rapid deployment characteristics, indoor CPE represents an estimated 86.8% of the current 5G FWA deployed CPE.  However, indoor CPE devices that are placed in areas of users’ homes with poor signal strength, the network performance can suffer greatly, posing more problems as operators scale up FWA deployments.

Outdoor CPE

Outdoor Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) refers to network devices installed outside buildings to provide internet connectivity. These devices include routers and antennas designed to operate in all environmental conditions, offering broader coverage and stronger signal reception compared to indoor CPE.  

Outdoor CPE is a better fit for various scenarios, including rural and remote areas where wired infrastructure is unavailable, agricultural sites, and large industrial complexes. It is also used in temporary and mobile setups, such as construction sites and outdoor events, to provide reliable internet connectivity​​.

Benefits of outdoor CPE
  • Improved line-of-sight communication: Outdoor CPEs facilitate better line-of-sight communication, which is crucial for high-frequency transmissions such as millimeter-wave 5G. Placing CPEs in elevated positions, such as on rooftops or poles, can significantly enhance signal strength and reliability.  
  • Broader signal coverage area: By being placed outside, these devices can transmit and receive signals over greater distances without the interference caused by walls and other indoor obstructions.  
  • Better interference management: Outdoor CPEs are less likely to suffer from interference caused by other electronic devices commonly found indoors, resulting more reliable signals for uninterrupted service.
  • Lower impact on network capacity: Outdoor CPEs generally have proper signal reception which leads to a much lower impact on overall network capacity.

However, to ensure its functionality, longevity, and to effectively deploy outdoor CPE, several key requirements must be met.  

First, outdoor CPE must be weatherproof to withstand environmental conditions such as rain, dust, and extreme temperatures. Devices often come with iP67 or similar ratings, which certify their durability and protection against weather and dust ingress, ensuring they remain operational in harsh weather.  

Outdoor CPE has unique challenges that must be carefully considered by executives and decision-makers in the industry.  

  • Higher installation and maintenance costs: The installation of outdoor CPEs typically incurs higher costs due to the need for specialized mounting equipment and professional installation services.  
  • More Complex Installation: Installing outdoor CPEs often involves more complex procedures compared to indoor units. It may require permits, professional installation, drilling holes through walls, and adherence to local regulations, which can prolong the deployment timeline and increase project costs. This complexity can be a barrier for rapid network expansion.
  • Signal Obstruction and Interference: While outdoor CPEs benefit from improved line-of-sight, they can still face signal obstructions from tall buildings, trees, and other large structures. These obstructions could degrade signal quality and coverage, necessitating careful placement and potential use of additional infrastructure to mitigate these issues, especially in the case of mmWave deployment

Indoor vs. Outdoor CPE

When telecom service providers or network operators evaluate the choice between indoor vs. outdoor CPE, several critical factors must be considered to ensure optimal service delivery and customer satisfaction. These factors include coverage capabilities, signal strength, installation and maintenance complexity, environmental resilience, cost-effectiveness, and scalability. When deploying 5G FWA today, operators have to make a choice between agile deployment of indoor CPE or the improved network performance that comes with outdoor CPE. Either solution comes with significant drawbacks. With a hybrid solution, combining both indoor and outdoor CPE’s main advantages, operators can gain a significant advantage in the market.

Coverage capabilities

The primary consideration is the coverage area that CPE can support. Outdoor CPE devices generally provide broader coverage, which is essential for rural areas and households located further away from a cell tower/base station.

In contrast, indoor CPE can only be used if the household is sufficiently close to a cell tower, otherwise the Quality of Service can suffer.  

Signal strength and quality

Signal strength and quality are critical for maintaining high service standards. Outdoor CPE can achieve superior signal reception due to their unobstructed placement, leveraging high-gain antennas to enhance connectivity.  

On the other hand, indoor CPE often suffers from signal obstructions from walls and furniture, which can weaken the signal and affect connectivity quality​. This disqualifies indoor CPE for environments where maintaining strong signal strength over larger areas is critical.

Installation and maintenance complexity

The complexity of installing and maintaining CPE affects both operational efficiency and customer experience. Indoor CPE devices are generally easier to install, often requiring minimal setup and no professional assistance, which can accelerate deployment times and reduce initial costs​.  

However, outdoor CPE installations are more complex, necessitating secure mounting solutions and possibly professional installation to ensure optimal alignment and weatherproofing. This complexity can significantly increase operational costs and extend deployment timelines of outdoor CPE that are generally justified by the broader coverage and improved signal strength​​.

Environmental resilience

Durability and resilience to environmental conditions are critical for outdoor CPE. Devices must withstand harsh weather, including rain, dust, and extreme temperatures, often requiring IP67 or similar ratings to ensure long-term reliability​.  

Indoor CPE, protected from external elements, lacks such durability features since it operates within a controlled indoor environment. This makes it unsuitable for outdoor deployment, where exposure to harsh conditions would compromise its functionality​​. For telecom providers, deploying durable outdoor CPE is crucial in ensuring consistent service delivery in various challenging environments.


Cost considerations include both initial investment and long-term operational expenses. Indoor CPE is generally more affordable both in terms of device cost and initial installation, making it a cost-effective solution for smaller scale deployments​. However, indoor CPEs suffer from higher data production costs due to signal attenuation, leading to increased network congestion. This congestion necessitates further investments in infrastructure and spectrum, raising overall network costs.

Outdoor CPE tends to be more expensive due to its advanced features, greater durability, and broader coverage capabilities. For instance, the cost of high-end outdoor CPE devices can be several times higher than their indoor counterparts​. The installation cost for outdoor CPE can be substantial, often requiring professional services, which adds to the overall expense.  

Scalability and flexibility

Scalability is another crucial factor for network operators. Outdoor CPE provides flexibility for expanding networks in rural and underserved areas where traditional infrastructure is lacking. The ability to quickly deploy and scale networks using outdoor CPE can be a significant advantage in competitive markets.  

Indoor CPE, on the other hand, offers flexibility for urban deployments where building density and customer proximity require adaptable solutions. However, it struggles with coverage capability and signal strength across multiple floors and units.

Meet in the Middle!

So, the ideal solution for telecom service providers is a mix of both indoor and outdoor CPE. A hybrid approach allows providers to leverage the strengths of each type, ensuring comprehensive coverage, strong signal quality, and efficient service delivery across diverse environments. By carefully evaluating these factors, providers can ensure they deliver high-quality, reliable connectivity tailored to the specific needs of their customer base.  

The choice between indoor and outdoor CPE depends on specific requirements such as coverage area, environmental conditions, and installation capabilities. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each type helps in making an informed decision to ensure reliable and efficient internet connectivity​.  

LINXC - The Best of Both Worlds!

LINXC seamlessly integrates the benefits of both indoor and outdoor CPE. It enables power and data delivery through windows, allowing for flexible indoor-outdoor integration without the need for drilling holes or running cables under windows. With this solution, the 5G signal is received in the outdoor unit, placed on the window. The indoor unit, placed on the other side of the window, then creates a wireless and bidirectional power and data link. The LINXC can be self-installed in less than 10 minutes and does not require any technical knowledge. This ease of setup makes it an attractive option for operators seeking a self-installable solution without sacrificing network performance​.

The LINXC leverages innovative features such as LiFi technology, which uses light to transmit data. This technology allows for high-speed data transfer without the traditional electromagnetic interference issues, providing a reliable and efficient connectivity solution​.  

To learn more about the LINXC and explore how it can enhance your connectivity experience, visit our products page.

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