July 25, 2017 —
While the big guys slug out how and when 5G will become a reality, there is a quiet revolution going on in the rural scene. If there is a great starting gate for 5G, it is in the sparsely populated regions of the countryside. Small towns and rural areas are a perfect petri dish to deploy elements of 5G and get some actual metrics on what it can do.
From a statistical perspective, only about 72 percent of the rural landscape have access to high-speed broadband service. Of that 72 percent, 60 percent are fed by a cable or telecom. The rest are connected via alternative platforms, such as WISPs or satellites, which often have much narrower bandwidths. That leaves a pretty good chunk of the population ripe for the taking.
There are a number of reasons why such a large percentage of the population is left in the digital dark, but the number one reason is ROI. There just isn’t enough money in deploying systems in areas where the population is sparse.
But there is now hope. With the current administration looking to pump some money into the infrastructure, wireless broadband stands to gain some momentum in these areas.
It is no secret that fiber and cable are not financially feasible so the only solution is wireless – and 5G NR is being looked at as the golden child at the moment. To densify these low-profit areas, the players are looking to dot the landscape with small cells. Most carriers are on board with this.
Out the door first will be fixed wireless. And that is a great idea. It will be the backbone that can connect the densification cells. We understand fixed wireless well. With the 5G NR specification, we can really put these devices to the test. With our understanding of fixed wireless applied to 5G NR, it shouldn’t take long to get a decent grasp on how some of this will shake out, where the glitches are and how well 5G new radios will function.
Chairman Pai is fully on board. Add to that the proposed loosening of the Net Neutrality rules and there is a lot of speculation that this will stimulate interest in such deployments. Plus, it is a pretty safe bet that the administration is willing to put some seed money into this in the form of tax breaks or protected offereing.
This is an opportunity for the wireless industry to get its feet wet with 5G. It isn’t the glamorous arena of mobile, but at least it can bring some 5G to the table and say we have real 5G – not 5G like, not some 5G elements, but a full-on application of 5G – even if it isn’t the brass ring of mobile.