Just because 5G is “around the corner” doesn’t mean fiber optic broadband development is unnecessary, said Ben Lewis-Ramirez of Lit Communities.
Ramirez is not the only one with a cynical outlook on 5G’s nationwide rollout.
“Deep deployment of fiber optics is a national imperative. The success of 5G wireless will hinge on deep fiber. The next transformation in infrastructure is 5G but the US is not well prepared to take full advantage of the potential, lacking needed fiber infrastructure close to the end customer (deep fiber),” Deloitte stated in its 2017 report titled “Communications Infrastructure Upgrade – The Need For Dark Fiber.”
Ramirez highlights several points demonstrating the necessity for fiber optics investment. First, the antennas on cell towers that carry wireless network traffic are all backhauled by fiber optic cables, resulting in the fact that 90% of mobile data traffic travels via wireline networks. Second, current 4G antennas cover roughly 10 square miles, whereas 5G antennas will cover only 500-750 square feet. Also, short ranged 5G signals will not pass through buildings or even dense trees.
This means that for a community to have a 5G network, it would require high capacity fiber cables on every street and access points with antennas every 200-300 feet, depending on physical obstructions. An estimated $150 billion in infrastructure is needed to meet future broadband needs, according to Deloitte’s report.
Some believe that mobile network operators are knowingly suppressing fiber projects by downplaying the need for fiber to the premises networks while hyping 5G, but Ramirez believes that MNOs are simply acting in a logical fashion. It makes sense for these companies to focus their expenditures in densely populated areas rather than sparse rural territories, where the return on investment is significantly lower.
Anchorage, Alaska, proposes 5G network
GCI announced a partnership with Ericsson to build a 5G network in Anchorage, Alaska.
This summer, Ericsson will begin deploying 3GPP standards-based 5G New Radio hardware and software to 82 macro cell sites across the city. GCI’s metro fiber network will provide backhaul services to these sites. The project is estimated for completion in 2020, with initial 5G service coming online in the first half of that year.
GCI has a history of leading in technology to provide telecommunications services to Alaskans. CEO Ron Duncan anticipates that GCI will roll out 5G to “all the fiber-served areas of the state in the next few years,” including Juneau and Fairbanks.
Ericsson President and CEO Börje Ekholm believes that 5G will be “the fastest scaling mobile technology ever.” Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report predicts there will be 1.9 billion mobile 5G subscriptions globally by the end of 2024.
The budgeting system that helps Fort Collins, Colorado, achieve its goals
The publication Route Fifty writes about the biennial spending plan known as the “budgeting for outcomes” system allows the citizens of Fort Collins, Colorado, to weigh in on the city’s municipal budget and encourage the allocation of funds based on “measurable results,” Including a significant fiber network.
“Budgeting for outcomes has been transformational and has been an excellent system that helps us become more results-driven versus just funding local government,” said City Manager Darin Atteberry.
According to city officials, the practice was adopted in 2005 after Fort Collins lost a hefty share of sales tax revenue, resulting in a series of difficult budget cuts. Budgeting for outcomes has allowed citizens to understand what their tax money was paying for, adding transparency to the process.
5G Will Help Enhance Environment Protection and Sustainability, Conference Hears
The technology has already been used by companies to monitor and make more efficient systems to reduce emissions.
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Because of its facilitation of real-time monitoring and more efficient use of systems, 5G technology will help tackle climate change and beef up environmental sustainability, an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event heard Tuesday.
5G technology’s ubiquitous connectivity and lower latency enables climate technology that decarbonizes manufacturing plants, enables rainforest monitoring, and limits greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
5G also enables real-time traffic control and monitoring that can help minimize carbon footprint, said John Hunter from T-Mobile, which has a large 5G network thanks in part to its merger with Sprint.
Finnish 5G equipment supplier Nokia has invested in smart manufacturing relying on the speed of 5G in its plants, which it said has resulted in a 10 to 20 percent carbon dioxide reduction and a 30 percent productivity improvement with 50 percent reduction in product defects.
Non-profit tech startup Rainforest Connection has used 5G technology to implant sensitive microphones into endangered rainforests in over 22 countries around the world. These microphones pick up on sounds in the forest and transmit them in real time to personnel on the ground.
These highly sensitive machines are camouflaged in trees and can pick up sounds of gunfire from poaching and chainsaws from illegal logging activity from miles away. The technology has proven to be significant in rainforest conservation and will enable researchers and scientists to find innovative solutions to help endangered species as they study the audio.
“By being able to integrate technologies such as 5G, we can accelerate that process… to achieve the mission [of mitigating climate change effects] sooner than we expected,” said Rainforest Connection CEO Bourhan Yassin.
Tech-Backed Infrastructure Firm Says Private Financing Needed for Shared 5G Facilities
Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners representative says investors must step in as large carriers are burdened by high costs of 5G rollout.
HOUSTON, May 3, 2022 – A representative of an infrastructure firm affiliated with Google’s parent company Alphabet on Monday emphasized the need for private financing in funding open access networks for 5G expansion.
Noah Tulsky, partner at Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, participated in a panel on private financing of broadband infrastructure projects as part of Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment during the Broadband Communities annual summit here.
Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners is an independent company. Alphabet is one of many investors in SIP, alongside Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and StepStone Group.
Tulsky stated that at the present, private investment into shared broadband infrastructure networks is particularly necessary in large part because it is capital intensive for large cellular carriers to expand their rollout of 5G networks.
The market climate of the moment makes it difficult to charge cellular customers higher data rates for 5G implementation as consumers are largely unwilling to pay such fees.
Broadband Breakfast’s event also focused heavily on ideal strategies for fiber builds with additional input from advisory firm Pinpoint Capital Advisors’ managing director Andrew Semenak, internet service provider Next Level Networks’ CEO David Barron and Chief Technology Officer Darrell Gentry, and ISP Stealth Communications’ CEO Shrihari Pandit as well as its Business Development Director Joe Plotkin.
Pandit summed up the central question on discussion, stating “Will throwing more money at broadband help to solve key issues like closing the digital divide and making broadband access more affordable for millions?”
Tulsky has written previously in Broadband Breakfast on the symbiotic relationship fiber has with wireless, stating that “wireless broadband can complement fiber technology, which drive down consumer costs and help close the digital divide.”
He stated Monday that funding from Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill is likely the best way to build conduit and predicted that in less wealthy, low-density areas conduit will be funded by the government as opposed to private investors, while small and medium fiber companies will be consolidated into larger companies that focus on city-based fiber deployments.
Information about the presentations made during the “Private Financing” panel are available at the Digital Infrastructure Investment page.
T.J. York contributed reporting to this article.
Noah Tulsky: Shared Infrastructure Can Make 5G Work For Cities
Cities should prioritize competitive processes to select an open access neutral host infrastructure provider.
Wireless data throughput is expected to increase nearly fivefold over the next four years, a surge driven by overall demand for data and enabled by new chipset technology and increased spectrum allocation.
Traditionally wired internet service providers like Comcast and Charter are investing in mobile connectivity, alongside incumbent mobile network operators. Meanwhile, mobile network operators are amortizing their spectrum investments to compete in the fixed broadband market wirelessly.
A quiet but critical race to deploy wireless networks throughout the country is well underway.
For cities and towns, this rapid growth can represent both a blessing and a curse
More demand for fixed and mobile wireless services means more infrastructure in the form of radios close to end users with annual small cell deployments in cities expected to grow at a roughly 25% compound annual rate through 2026.
Uncoordinated growth can cause headaches and have lasting local and national implications for digital equity, urban landscapes and economic growth.
At the same time, cities that harness the wireless revolution can propel themselves into the future.
Wireless broadband can complement fiber technology, which can drive down consumer costs and help close the digital divide.
And 5G mobile connectivity itself is quickly becoming a necessity. Communities without 5G will be cut off from coming technologies that can save lives and spur economic growth, including autonomous vehicles to serve transit deserts, drone-based maintenance of essential infrastructure and distributed renewable energy.
The deployment of 5G must be carefully managed
Not all 5G build-outs are created equal.
If providers build discrete, separate networks, cities can become overwhelmed by permitting requests to mount radios on light poles and street infrastructure.
If three different companies latch their technology onto the same telephone pole, city infrastructure will end up cluttered, and city residents will be understandably frustrated.
These promising technologies might roll out slowly as city departments work through 5G deployment permitting backlogs.
Worse still, service providers might end up building only in the wealthiest areas—where they can most easily recover their investment. Thus, communities and even whole towns at the margins may be left out.
Policymakers have an opportunity to leverage their infrastructure and ensure that networks are built to be compatible with their goals. State and local officials can use their clout to deliver real and lasting value to as many residents as possible.
Seek out neutral hosts through public-private partnerships
Cities should prioritize competitive processes to select an open access neutral host infrastructure provider that can work with multiple carriers to co-locate on shared infrastructure.
A neutral host can marshal private investment to accelerate network builds and organize the service providers on behalf of the city — all while keeping the process competitive.
This type of public-private partnership has a multiplier effect: Private capital can be united with any public broadband funding and directed toward municipal priorities.
In this model, cities also retain control. Leaders can promote equitable build-outs, ensure that neutral hosts commit to aesthetically consistent and minimally invasive infrastructure, and even earn back a portion of the rent that neutral hosts charge from service providers.
At Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, where I work, we believe that the best type of neutral host for a city is one that allows multiple operators to share more than just the passive pole infrastructure, and by doing so reduce the visual clutter of the deployment.
For this reason SIP established its innovation platform CoFi and acquired Dense Air Networks, which uses software-defined networking techniques to share radios among multiple MNO tenants, significantly reducing their rental costs and allowing MNOs to deliver quality service economically in areas that would otherwise be underserved.
Coordinate fiber and wireless builds to put federal funding to highest and best use
Cities can now access unprecedented federal funding to fast-track connectivity.
In the recent infrastructure bill, the federal government allocated $65 billion for broadband expansion, in addition to the $10 billion made available through the American Rescue Plan.
These are huge sums, and as with all government funding, they can be used wisely or poorly.
Much of this funding will go toward building fiber and, if done correctly, cities and their private fiber partners can leverage these dollars to ensure that fiber network plans anticipate and enable wireless footprints as well.
Close consultation with wireless neutral hosts, MNOs, and ISPs can help cities get the most bang for their federal buck.
Cities can also avoid the faulty ideas of the past, such as one-time public WiFi builds. These have largely become cost centers, and they rarely deliver quality connections or cover a meaningful geographic footprint.
Cities can instead allocate funding toward financially sustainable projects, which align incentives and help build networks that can last beyond the limits of federal funding.
The 5G rollout offers an opportunity for cities to correct past mistakes — and bring millions of people online and into the digital economy.
With innovation in public-private partnership models and technology, cities can, and should, harness the secular growth in wireless broadband to their advantage.
Noah Tulsky is a Partner at Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP), where he focuses on SIP’s CoFi platform, which works to advance shared broadband solutions, and 5G strategy. SIP owns, operates, and invests in innovative technology to transform infrastructure systems, advancing scalable solutions to society’s biggest challenges. Previously, Noah worked at Goldman Sachs, where he invested across the power & energy, transportation, and telecommunications & data sectors on behalf of the firm’s infrastructure funds. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
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