The skinny on Fixed Wireless vs Fiber

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society have published a report on Fixed Wireless Technologies and Their Suitability for Broadband Delivery.  The full report is detailed and will be a great asset to folks in the policy and planning trenches making decisions about what to choose where and when. For the rest of us, there are helpful charts that give us a understandable look at key characteristics (such as cost)…

And the executive summary also helps put things into perspective for folks who need to understand it but not deploy it…

  • Fixed-wireless technologies will continue to improve but will not match the performance of fiber-optic networks—primarily because the existing and potential bandwidth of fiber is thousands of times higher than wireless. Also, fixed-wireless networks have inherent capacity limitations that sharply limit the number of users on a network using a given amount of spectrum.

  • Fixed-wireless network coverage is adversely affected by line-of-sight obstructions (including buildings and seasonal foliage) and weather. While a fiber network can physically connect every household in a service area (and deliver predictable performance), it is significantly more complex for a fixed-wireless network to deliver a line of sight to every household in a service area.

  • Scalability is a critical challenge to fixed-wireless deployments, both technically and financially. A given amount of wireless spectrum is capable of supporting a given amount of network capacity. If the number of network users increases or users need more bandwidth, the network operator must increase the spectrum (which is both scarce and extremely expensive—and may not be possible), upgrade the technology, or add antennas. It is challenging to design a fixed wireless network that will provide sufficient, robust upstream and downstream capacity and reach all the addresses in unserved areas.

  • The fastest fixed-wireless technologies (such as those that use millimeter-wave spectrum) are effective in delivering short-range service to closely grouped households in urban and suburban settings. These technologies are largely unsuitable for serving rural communities because of the typical geographic dispersion of addresses and the lack of mounting structures (such as towers or building rooftops).

  • Fiber is sustainable, scalable, and renewable. It offers greater capacity, predictable performance, lower maintenance costs, and a longer technological lifetime than fixed-wireless technologies. Fiber service is not degraded by line-of-sight issues and is not affected by the capacity issues that constrain fixed wireless networks.

AT&T Investments $400 million to Connect Communities from 2019-2021

AT&T reports

In Minnesota, we invested nearly $400 million in our wireless and wireline networks from 2019-2021, including nearly $200 million in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area.

And some details…

Committed to expanding connectivity, our investment focuses on all facets of the network— from 5G to FirstNet.

  • Unlocking the Power of 5G: AT&T is America’s Most Reliable 5G Network1. AT&T currently offers 3 flavors of 5G*, which helps enable the network to reach its full potential. Here’s how they work:
    • AT&T 5G using low-band spectrum offers fast speeds and reaches more than 277 million people in more than 18,000 cities and towns in the U.S., including Austin, Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Mankato, Minneapolis, Montevideo, Owatonna, Rochester, St. Cloud, St. Paul, and Worthington.
    • AT&T 5G+ recently introduced mid-band spectrum in limited parts of 8 metros nationwide, including Minneapolis. This spectrum sits between our other 2 bands. The mid-band spectrum provides a great combination of ultra-fast speeds and wide geographic coverage.
    • AT&T 5G+ using high-band (millimeter wave) spectrum delivers super-fast speeds and unprecedented performances in high traffic areas including parts of more than 45 cities and 40 stadiums and venues nationwide, including in parts of Minneapolis and at the Target Center and U.S. Bank Stadium.
  • Supporting First Responders by Expanding the Nation’s Public Safety Network: FirstNet, Built with AT&T, is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband network built with and for America’s first responders. Today, we cover nearly all of Minnesota with FirstNet – helping to connect public safety agencies and organizations in more than 190 communities across the state. It provides America’s first responders and the extended public safety community with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it. FirstNet includes unique benefits like always-on priority and preemption, high-quality Band 14 spectrum and a one-of-a-kind 5G experience to keep public safety mission ready.

EVENT June 22: Webinar: The Limits of Fixed Wireless Technology for Rural Communities

A webinar hosted by CTCNet…

As state governments examine how to best invest federal funds to deploy broadband in unserved and underserved areas, a new study — commissioned by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and independently developed by CTC Technology & Energy —analyzes fixed wireless technologies and their suitability for delivering broadband service in various environments.

The goals of this evaluation included:

  • Providing an accessible guide to current and anticipated future fixed wireless technologies;
  • Demonstrating whether fixed wireless can be a viable approach to delivering broadband to currently unserved residents in various deployment scenarios, such as in urban and rural communities; and
  • Illustrating whether (and in what circumstances) states should consider spending public dollars to subsidize fixed wireless technologies as a permanent solution to meeting residents’ broadband needs.

This webinar will cover the critical technology and cost considerations outlined in the study—including a total cost of ownership analysis of candidate fixed wireless and fiber networks in a range of unserved rural settings.

Date and Time: Wednesday, June 22, 2022 at 2:00PM EST
Webinar Registration: Click Here

Moderated by President Joanne Hovis, CTC will host a one-hour webinar open to all.  Webinar presenters include:

  • Linda Hinton, District 4 Vice President, Communications Workers of America
  • Andrew Afflerbach, Ph.D., P.E., Chief Technology Officer and CEO, CTC Technology & Energy

Registration Link: The Limits of Fixed Wireless Technology for Rural Communities

RDOF winner Resound Networks gets Gig via fixed wireless – will that change the rules?

Telecompetitor reports

RDOF winner Resound Networks says that it has successfully achieved gigabit speeds using fixed wireless access (FWA) in the 6 GHz band via an experimental license. The company said that it reached a distance of more than three miles using 160 MHz-wide channels that will become available in the band.

Resound is one of three top-ten winning bidders in the Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction that plan to use fixed wireless, along with fiber broadband, to deliver gigabit speeds.

And while several big winning bidders that plan to rely on gigabit fiber broadband for their deployments have had funding released to them, none of the big winning bidders planning to use gigabit fixed wireless have had funding released — apparently because the FCC wants to make sure that the technology can meet performance requirements.

This is something to watch in Minnesota. The biggest potential RDOF winner in Minnesota is LTD Broadband. They bid to deliver fiber but they have more experience with fixed wireless. So that’s a conundrum. Are there appreciable differences if they can get the same bandwidth? Does it matter if they bid for one technology but use another? Resound Networks’ success is sure to spark discussion.

Americans for Responsible Technology promote FTTH over wireless solutions

Public News Service reports…

Groups that promote the responsible deployment of technology are celebrating the Biden administration’s new $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program because it favors fiberoptic technology over broadband communications technologies such as cable, satellite, DSL and wireless.
Gary Bolton – president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association – said fiberoptic connections are faster, more reliable, and can adapt easily to future technological advances.
“You’ll be able to do things like smart-grid modernization, public safety, and even advanced services like 5G,” said Bolton. “So having this near-limitless capacity is going to really close the digital divide once and for all.”

One reason for supporting fiber is the unintended impact of wireless…

Americans for Responsible Technology President and Founder Doug Wood said health groups favor fiber broadband over wireless because wireless cell towers emit radiofrequency radiation. And a 2018 study from the National Institutes of Health linked RF radiation to cancer in lab animals.

“We’re beginning to understand that it has biological impacts, even at levels far below what the government considers safe,” said Wood. “So, it seems like an unwise decision to start installing wireless antennas and wireless broadband and communities across the country.”

Cooperative recipe for building a private wireless network for precision ag costs $50,000 per farm and $6,000 annually

Telecompetitor reports

A new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division estimates the upfront cost of deploying a private wireless network to support precision agriculture at $50,000 per farm if deployed through one of the nation’s farm supply cooperatives. The annual recurring cost per farm would be about $6,000, according to CoBank.

“Agricultural cooperatives are in an ideal position to build and deliver carrier-grade, high-speed private wireless networks to their farmer members,” the report observes.

The cooperatives exist to serve the needs of their farmer members and have “institutionalized knowledge of farming operations,” according to the report authors, who see private wireless networks as an opportunity for the cooperatives to develop “new and diverse revenue sources that depend less on turbulent ag commodity and fuel prices.”

The CoBank report cites two key enablers of the private wireless precision agriculture opportunity. One is the availability of a large swath of CBRS spectrum, some of which is unlicensed. The other is the availability of carrier-grade equipment that can be deployed for use by a single entity.

The CoBank estimate of the per-farm cost of private wireless for precision agriculture assumes that 50 farms share network core costs of about $225,000. Considering that the average agricultural cooperative has about 1,000 members, this would mean that about 5% of the farmers in the cooperative would need to participate.

After two days traveling in rural Western MN, I can appreciate the need for investment. Cell coverage is better than is used to be out there, but it’s not consistently great. But listening to the local radio, I hear the stories and concerns about food safety and technology will definitely play a role in keeping food safe!

Fixed wireless broadband expanded to Morse Township and Ely area

The IRRR Ranger reports

Approximately 350 underserved homes and several resorts in Morse Township recently received access to highspeed broadband internet through next generation fixed wireless and millimeter wave technology. The homes and resorts are located in a coverage area surrounding Ely that includes the shoreline areas of Burntside Lake, Little Long Lake and Wolf Lake. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the project with a $150,000 Community Infrastructure grant to Morse Township. Morse Township invested $100,000, and total project investment was $450,000.

The area geology is very rocky with challenging bedrock that drives up the cost of burying fiber. Instead fixed wireless deployments were used which reduces costs by approximately 90% and drastically reduces project timelines.

The work was completed by Treehouse Broadband, an Ely-based internet service provider founded by local resident Isaac Olson. Treehouse uses fixed wireless technology to beam internet service from towers to homes and businesses, using directional antennas and receiver dishes. The company also installs whole-home WiFi, ensuring high-speed coverage even in the corners of homes and businesses. …

When fully completed, customers will have access to internet speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload. Their previous access was real speeds below 10 Mbps.

New FirstNet Cell Site Launches in Hokah to Support First Responders (Houston County MN)

From AT&T...

What’s the news? First responders in the Hokah area are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site just outside Hokah in Houston County.

This FirstNet site will serve those traveling along County Road 18 between Hokah and Brownsville in the Mississippi River Valley of southeastern Minnesota. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

Why is this important? We look at FirstNet as the most important wireless network in the country because it’s serving our first responders. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides dedicated mobile broadband. To ensure AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) are putting coverage and capacity where first responders need it most, the FirstNet build is being done with direct feedback from state and local public safety officials. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency.

FirstNet sites already launched in communities across Minnesota including Angle Inlet, Bagley, Baudette, Blackduck, Cloquet, northwest of Ely (Echo Trail), Faribault, Isabella, Peterson, Finlayson, Graceville, Grand Marais (Gunflint Trail), Grygla, Hovland, Kellogg, Lewiston, Orr (Kjostad Lake), Tofte (Lichen Lake), Togo and Williams.

What are the benefits to first responders? Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, this band – or lane – can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. That means only those on the FirstNet network will be able to access Band 14 spectrum, further elevating their connected experience and emergency response. Band 14 has been added on more than 700 existing sites across Minnesota, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, Mankato, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Brainerd/Baxter area.

How does this help Minnesota residents? This new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T commercial spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when capacity is available.

Ookla speed ranks MN mobile speeds 6 and MN fixed broadband speeds 39

Ookla has just released United States Median Speeds from December 2021. You can dig into the report to see which providers seem to provide the fastest service; I mostly looked at the high level.

Mobile speed rankings: Minnesota ranks 6.

Fixed Rate. Minnesota ranks 39.

Flights in and around the US are disrupted due to 5G roll out and concerns over adjacent spectrum

I think broadband is life changing. I’m also terrified to fly. So I’ve been watching the issues with American airlines and 5G roll out with one eye closed. The concern is that the 5G spectrum is very close to the spectrum that airlines use and older planes may not handle the potential interference well, as NPR reports

Rapport says the wireless carriers need more and more radio spectrum to carry more and more bits to our smartphones. The Federal Communications Commission auctioned off radio spectrum to the wireless carriers a big chunk of the “C” band of radio spectrum for about $80 billion in 2020. The segment of the spectrum in the “C” band purchased by AT&T and Verizon happens to sit right next to the frequencies used by radio altimeters in aircraft.

“The radio altimeters on our aircraft determine not only the height above the ground … as we come in for a landing or we’re taking off, but they’re tied to many other systems in our aircraft,” said Joe DePete, head of the Air Line Pilots Association, in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance.

Altimeters are critical for pilots to use during bad weather when visibility is poor. Pilots like DePete worry that strong 5G signals from cellphone towers placed close to airport runways could interfere with the radio altimeters.

“The issue is that some of the older planes and older aircraft equipment that were built maybe 30 or 40 years ago do not have very good band pass filters. They don’t have very good filters on their receivers,” says Rappaport.
It’s similar to the way that CB radios would sometimes interfere with old TV sets, before cable and digital signals, according to Rappaport.

The roll out was delayed for a week or so, and now has been modified to avoid areas near airports but that has not convinced everyone that it’s safe, as Bloomberg reports

Airlines around the world are adjusting their schedules and aircraft deployments for flights to the U.S. over fears that a 5G rollout by AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. near American airports could interfere with key safety systems.

Dubai’s Emirates said it will suspend flights to several U.S. cities, including Chicago, Newark and San Francisco, while Japan Airlines Co. and ANA Holdings Inc. said they won’t fly their 777 jets to and from the U.S. mainland after a warning from Boeing Co. about how the model’s altimeter will be affected.

AT&T and Verizon Agree to New Delay of 5G Rollout

As someone who is currently on a road trip to California with plans to fly home, I am pleased to share a recap from Benton

AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay their rollout of a new 5G service for two weeks, after the Federal Aviation Administration requested they do so in an effort to mitigate potential interference with airplane safety systems. At Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s request, “we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay,” an AT&T spokesperson said. “We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues.” The sudden turn of events came as the Federal Aviation Administration was preparing to soon issue flight restrictions that US airlines worried would significantly disrupt air-travel and cargo shipments around the country. Airlines for America, which represents major passenger and cargo carriers, had planned to ask a federal court to block the 5G rollout slated for Jan 5. The trade group held off once both telecom carriers agreed to further delay their 5G rollout until Jan. 19.

To be fair my concern is more related to my fear of flying that knowing anything about the real risk of 5G.

Change in broadband provider ownership (Federated Rural) in Jackson, Cottonwood, Nobles, Martin, Murray and Brown Counties

The Worthington Globe reports

Federated Rural Electric’s Board of Directors approved the acquisition of Back 40 Wireless on Nov. 30.

Back 40 Wireless is a wireless internet company currently owned by Troy Rasmussen doing business from downtown Jackson. The transfer of ownership to Federated will take place on Dec. 31, with a formal closing on Jan. 7.

The business name will change to Federated Broadband at that time, and Back 40’s existing downtown location at 205 Second St. will close Dec. 31.

Back 40 Wireless provides rural internet service to Jackson, Cottonwood, Nobles, Martin, Murray and Brown counties in Minnesota, as well as Osceola, Dickinson and Emmet counties in Iowa.

“The new business plans include maintaining their great level of service, while expanding our services to reach the entire Federated service area and beyond if requested,” said Scott Reimer, Federated’s general manager. “Federated Broadband will operate independently from the electric utility operations, as a self-sustaining business.”

They are making plans for expansion…

“We will continue working on applying for grants and loans for deploying fiber optic internet in the future for Federated members in both counties,” said David Hansen, Federated Board president. “In fact, the Board approved hiring a consulting firm Dec. 6 to submit Federated’s application for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Reconnect grant and loan program to cover fiber broadband. This application deadline is Feb. 22.”

Federated has experience with providing internet service, as the co-op has offered Wild Blue satellite internet since 2012, which became Exede satellite service. The remaining Federated satellite customers will be offered the faster service through Federated Broadband.

Federated is a Touchstone Energy cooperative serving 6,800 members in Jackson and Martin counties.

New FirstNet Cell Sites Launch along Gunflint Trail and near Lichen Lake (Cook County MN)

Here’s the latest from AT&T. I have a few very similar posts for this afternoon but for archival reasons, I’ll post the info on each community separately…

New Infrastructure Will Help Advance Public Safety, Improve Connectivity for Area Residents and Visitors

What’s the news? First responders in northern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added two new, purpose-built cell sites – one located along the Gunflint Trail near Gunflint Lake and Magnetic Lake and another located near Lichen Lake in the Superior National Forest.

These FirstNet sites will serve those traveling in the remote wilderness of northern Minnesota. One site will provide coverage when traveling along the Gunflint Trail north of Grand Marais. The second will provide coverage when traveling along State Highway 165 near Lichen Lake north of Tofte. The sites will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

New FirstNet Cell Site Launches in Togo (Itasca County MN)

Here’s the latest from AT&T. I have a few very similar posts for this afternoon but for archival reasons, I’ll post the info on each community separately…

New Infrastructure Will Help Advance Public Safety, Improve Connectivity for Area Residents and Visitors

What’s the news? First responders in northern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located in Togo near George Washington State Forest in Itasca County.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along State Highways 1 and 65 in the remote community of Togo. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.

New FirstNet Cell Site Launches South of Faribault (Rice County MN)

Here’s the latest from AT&T. I have a few very similar posts for this afternoon but for archival reasons, I’ll post the info on each community separately…

New Infrastructure Will Help Advance Public Safety, Improve Connectivity for Area Residents and Visitors

What’s the news? First responders in southern Minnesota are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet® network expansion currently underway by AT&T*. We’ve added a new, purpose-built cell site located just south of Faribault in Rice County.

This FirstNet site will provide coverage when traveling along 260th Street West, Dalton Avenue and Canby Avenue just south of Faribault between Deerfield and Medford in southern Minnesota. It will also give first responders on FirstNet – America’s public safety network – access to always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data.