Thanks to Small Cells, Coverage Coming to Rural Vermont
July 7, 2012
The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) has signed a contract with CoverageCo to provide cellular coverage in parts of northern Vermont previously unserved by carriers. CoverageCo will start deploying the small cells this summer, and commercial service is expected to begin by the end of the year.
“CoverageCo’s small-cell approach allows it to provide service where it was previously not economically feasible,” said Richard P. Biby, CoverageCo CEO. “Because the sites are small and completely IP-based, a standard Internet service over a virtual private network can be used to connect to the core network.”
The multi-standard network technology will allow CoverageCo to enter into agreements with virtually any retail cellular carrier so that subscribers in Vermont may use their existing phones and calling plans in more areas throughout the state. The deployment strategy is to mount the base station on utility poles or on other existing structures along the roadways or other high-use areas.
“Offering our services to existing cellular carriers through roaming agreements allows subscribers to roam onto our network with their existing handsets,” Biby said.
The project will give Connect VT — the governor’s broadband and cellular initiative — and the VTA a demonstration project to assess the ability of CoverageCo’s proposed solution to deliver coverage in rural Vermont. CoverageCo, which is using additional funding outside the government subsidy, may expand the coverage area on its own or it may be furthered by the VTA.
“With this deployment of small-cell technology, we will undertake a demonstration project to expand cellular coverage in target corridors. We are funding and judiciously testing a leading edge technology for its ability to achieve coverage in hard-to-reach places,” said Karen Marshall, chief, Connect VT.
The VTA, which has budgeted $500,000 for the initial build, will purchase equipment to serve nearly 90 miles of unserved roadway in three sections of the state. CoverageCo will lease the equipment from the VTA and operate it as part of its overall network. In addition to the sections sponsored by the VTA, CoverageCo will cover another 125 road miles throughout the state as part of its initial build, funded through private capital investment.
“In order to make deployment of cellular service economical in rural areas, it is important that we do everything we can to lower the cost of the infrastructure,” said Christopher Campbell, executive director of the VTA. “The small-cell solution proposed to the VTA by CoverageCo has the potential to provide service to unserved corridors at a lower cost than conventional cell tower sites.”
CoverageCo is using CompactRAN, the latest generation of small-cell technology from Vanu, where each site is a complete cellular base station in a sealed all-weather outdoor enclosure the size of a ream of paper. The energy-efficient units use software-defined radios and Internet protocol to support both CDMA and GSM technologies and backhaul the signal using an Internet connection.