MN Broadband Task Force Notes Feb 2020 at Lake o’Lakes: precision ag, 5G and fixed wireless

Today the MN Broadband Task Force met at Land o’Lakes in Arden Hills. We got a tour of their tasting facilities, more importantly we heard about the innovations they have been working on for precision ag. It’s amazing the info they can get via apps, drones, mapping and some real world engagement. There’s an app that a farmer can use to track his crop in the field. If he sees an anomaly, he can stop, scan the produce and send back to the folks mixing the crop nutrients and on the fly treatment for sections of the crops can change based on need. Well I say in real time but it seems that’s only possible where broadband is sufficient and we learned that a drone image of a crop can be 5 GB, which can take almost 4 hours to upload with a 3Mbps connection. Suddenly Land o’Lakes’ interest in rural broadband is clear.

We also learned about 5G and fixed wireless. The important thing to learn about 5G – is that not all flavors are created equal. Today we learned about 5G+ (mmWave), 5G (Sub 6 GHZ)  and 5G evolution (akin to LTE). There are difference between the three. 5G (mmWave) is the top of the line option for urban areas. It’s what we read about when the Superbowl came to town. And they said it will not be coming to rural areas because the reach of 5G/mmWave is 250 meters from the tower.

With fixed wireless, there’s licensed and unlicensed. Unlicensed wireless may experience interference from nearly networks and is obliged to try not to interfere with other networks. Again there’s a range of speeds and distances the network can travel without degradation.

You can see the meeting video or read more complete notes below. The audio may not be great but to be fair, it wasn’t great in the room either.

Approved minutes from last month (above)…

The Task Force did send a message to the Governor supporting the $30 million in surplus funding for broadband grants. Commissioner Grove was happy. The Governor has received the message.


Amanda Neely on Ag Tech Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Land o’Lakes

Digital Transformation

  • Data collection & aggregation
  • Form productivity
  • Digital transformation
  • Insights and efficiencies

Built proprietary precision ag tools

  • Using data to become more predictable requires technology
  • Use satellite imagery to get maps and conditions to the farmer
  • Add in chemistry to predict and text changes
  • App is on the phone – but can scan plant to get tested remotely
  • To get precise about precision ag is having the broadband to pinpoint exact locations in the field

Question: do you look at soil health?
Yes – we often to test in April before planting. And we have soil maps

We need farmers to read online, buy online and interact online. That requires broadband. They need way more than 25/3 to interact!

We have a host of partners but the key is being able to communicate with each. And we are trying to smooth adoption for farmer by streamlining as much as we can. TO get the farmer the info they need (spatial data) that need a lot of broadband.

Drone pictures for precision ag can be 5 gigabytes. How long would that take to upload? Almost 4 hours at 3 Mbps.

Question: How is US doing compared to others
Europe is pretty advanced due to regulations. Outside of Europe, we are far ahead.

Andy Sackreiter AT&T on 5G

They are marketing 3 flavors of 5G

  • We will never see a 5G+ mmWave network in rural areas; it’s more like a hotspot application because the 5G+ travels 300-500 feet.
  • 5G (Sub 6 GHZ)  – uses the same infrastructure as 4G. It may have decent deployment in MN – will make announcements in June.
  • 5G evolution (advanced LTE) – eventually it may replace LTE

Question: Do all of 5Gs meet standard of 5G?
Not 5G evolution

Question: Are these all symmetrical?
Not in the field.

AT&T enables massive IoT with Low Power WAN – works well with small data transactions (like turning a sprinkler off and on) the battery is long lasting.

Localizing Cellular Connectivity – seems to act like a local proxy cache

How long will it take to get 5g Sub 6 GHZ to all of MN?
It may take a few years to get Minnesota covered with 5G Sub 6 GHZ.

How can we smooth the path to 5G Sub 6 GHZ deployment?
Les red tape is helpful?

Fiber deployments in rural areas can be hard for smaller providers with the red tape required.

Ben Wiechman Arvig on fixed wireless

Fiber going to a tower or building

Signal strength is like volume in a crowded room

Communication (Spectral) Efficienty is like conversation at a distance

Channel width is lanes of a highway – AND Simplified: 75Mbps using a single 20 MHz channel

Unlicensed – means you put up with interference and try not to interfere with others

Licensed – mean you have exclusive use of a channel

  • 900 MHz – 1-3 miles
  • 2.4 GHz – 5-7 miles 50/10 Mbps
  • CBRS 3-5 miles 25/3ish Mbps (up to 100/20 with additional channels
  • mmWave – 250 meters 500/500Mbps
  • satellite – serve of last resort because the latency is too slow for any interaction – voice, gaming, tech support…

Ag Implications

  • IoT sensors likely to be 4G-5G
  • FarmBeats (Microsofter TVWS) – challenges with connectivity to the farm and distribution on the farm
  • Portable connectivity makes sense – wind farms, drilling rigs, mobile grain fryers

The channel with 2.4 GHz unlicensed is getting close enough to reach customers but far enough to decrease interference. A typical customer base might be 150 customers per tower but you really need fiber backhaul to meet their needs. You need 50 customers per tower to break even in 3 years.

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