Municipal leaders worldwide are educating themselves about the potential of wireless connectivity, sensors and artificial intelligence to make their cities safer, cleaner, richer and easier to navigate. But when it comes to actually implementing new technology, many are challenged by integration with existing systems, networks and processes. This was not a problem for David Broecker, chief innovation and commercial officer at Purdue Research Foundation (PRF).
In New York City (NY), students without broadband access face additional challenges given the reduced number of parking lots and places more rural students have been forced to go to get wi-fi during the pandemic. “A number of donors offered to help fund initiatives to extend Wi-Fi,” remembers Garfield Swaby, vice president for information technology at the New York Public Library. But Swaby knew Wi-Fi wasn’t the answer. “I don’t know if it would be able to get off the sidewalk,” he said.
The Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on sweetheart deals made between building owners and broadband providers, but that could leave some tenants out in the cold when it comes to reliable internet access. Analysts have warned that without extra financial incentives, some fiber providers may be unwilling to invest enough to deliver a quality network.
Federal funds and municipal bond money have flowed to school districts during the past two years to help connect students to the internet during the global pandemic. Some of this funding has helped create private LTE networks using CBRS spectrum under General Authorized Access. One of these networks serves Texas’ Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD). The network was designed to favor capital investment rather than ongoing operating expenses, since a windfall of funding was available from a bond and from the government’s Emergency Connectivity Fund.
AT&T CEO John Stankey forecast a banner year for infrastructure investment in 2022 and told investors he expects the operator to complete planned asset sales despite protestations by some US politicians. Stankey predicted the wireless industry will invest heavily in infrastructure in 2022 due to the availability of C-Band spectrum and new air interfaces. “This is going to be a phenomenal year in terms of reinvestment back into infrastructure in the US on behalf of the industry in total”, Stankey projected.
Spectrum is the resource carriers spend billions to acquire and billions more to deploy, so clearly there is value in using it efficiently. Tech startup GenXComm recently raised a $20 million with the goal of hiring new talent to develop its private wireless business. Investors including Intel Capital, BMWi Ventures and Motive Communications are backing the company as it markets its solutions to carriers, with a particular focus on helping them deploy private networks. “We are able to do backhaul and access in the same frequency”, explained GenXComm co-founder and CTO Hardik Jain.
Motorola is building a private LTE network for the nation’s third most populous county using CBRS spectrum. The network In Harris County (TX) currently supports 1,000 households and is expected to connect 6,000 by the end of 2021. Harris County Universal Services, which provides IT and communication services for the public sector, is using CARES Act funds to extend connectivity to Houston-area residents through the private wireless network. The county will give free CBRS modems to people whose homes are covered by the network.
Non-profit wireless internet service provider DigitalC is using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and leveraging federal funds and private donations to subsidize broadband service and infrastructure deployment to last-mile homes in Cleveland (OH).
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has been extremely popular with the telecom companies he’s regulated for the last four years, but one corner of the industry will not be sad to see the chairman step down. The carriers that provide mobile service to the nation’s neediest citizens say Pai is trampling them on his way out the door while pulling critical service away from those hit hardest by this year’s economic downturn. Lifeline providers say an FCC order that took effect December 1 will force them to stop offering free data service to qualified low-income customers.
It’s been just over a year since the Federal Communications Commission dropped the educational use requirement for the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum, saying most licensees weren’t deploying the spectrum for its intended use. Now, with thousands of students facing the possibility of another semester outside the classroom, schools that hold spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band are reconsidering its value.