WASHINGTON, June 27, 2019 – When it comes to removing Huawei or ZTE telecommunications equipment from U.S. broadband networks, a strategy of “rip and place” would cost well over $1 billion.
Rural broadband carriers don’t have the budget for that, and they are concerned that the costs of a retrofit would delay the deployment of 5G wireless networks.
That was the message that multiple broadband providers – particularly rural entities – delivered to Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks at a Thursday FCC workshop that had been framed as a discussion about network security.
Starks staked out a strong position against the use of Chinese telecommunications equipment in U.S. broadband networks, noting existing steps by the Trump administration to prohibit procurement of telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE.
Starks convened the discussion at the agency, however, to address equipment that is already inextricable intertwined within U.S. networks. “Network security is national security, and our interconnected networks are only as secure as their most vulnerable pieces,” he said.
The discussion applies to wired networks because equipment to run fiber-optic wires will be more instrumental in operating 5G networks than previous technologies. Mike Saperstein, vice president of policy and advocacy at US Telecom, said he is in support of federal risk management activities to “identify supply-chain threats.”
Others cited the distinction between trusting equipment and trusting suppliers. Much of 5G and 4G traffic will not necessarily pass through a network core, said Brian Hendricks, vice president of policy and government relations at Nokia. The radio layer of a mobile network has become a more vulnerable point of attack.
The issue of deploying 5G will fall “particularly hard” on small rural carriers in the United States, Hendricks said.
The only way to eliminate any risk would be to ban Chinese equipment entirely, said Jim Lewis, senior vice president and director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And such a “rip and replace” is not tenable, he said.
Moreover, he said, just as big American tech companies use Chinese components in their equipment, Chinese telecom depends on U.S. technological advancements.
And doing anything that would delay the deployment of 5G technology would ultimately hinder the economy.
Carri Bennet, general counsel at The Rural Wireless Association. Cited the figure of more-than $1 billion figure for replacing all Huawei and ZTE equipment. And attempting to replace network equipment while the network is still in operation could create service issues, including for public safety.
She suggested that it would be good to start with third-party monitoring of carrier networks.
“We should not be reliant on suppliers from adversarial nations to design manage and secure our critical infrastructure, especially as we develop cloud technologies,” said Travis Russell, director of cybersecurity at Oracle Communications. There is no finalized definition yet of what a stand-alone 5G network would look like, he said, so there is still time to “work out a solution” for this dilemma.
The FCC has a vital role in understanding the issues that small, rural carriers face, said Dileep Srihari, senior policy counsel at Telecommunications Industry Association.
Many rural providers lack the budget to replace banned equipment, said Jeff Johnston, senior economist at CoBank.
A “rip and replace” strategy to remove equipment that some have suggest is not secure would bear an “enormous” opportunity cost for rural carriers relying on Huawei for telecom infrastructure, said Christopher Reno, chief accounting officer at Union Telephone Company.
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.
5G Will Impact the Future Beyond Previous Generations of Wireless, Company Execs Say
With every generation of wireless technology new applications reveal themselves, and experts say 5G is no exception.
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2022 – As 5G continues to deploy at a faster rate than any previous generation of wireless technology, some experts argue that the next ten years will lead to more disruption and innovation in society than the last 20 years combined.
During the “AT&T Policy Forum on 5G and Innovation” on March 15, David Christopher, AT&T’s executive vice president and general manager of partnerships and 5G ecosystem development, argued that the next decade will be defined by “mega-tends” that will be enabled by 5G technology.
He pointed out that each generation of wireless technology advanced what kind of activities consumers could engage in – from being able to make calls with 1G all the way to being able to participate in online shopping from almost anywhere in the world with 4G. Similarly, Christopher argued that 5G will enable consumers to participate in things like artificial intelligence, precision medicine, driverless cars, blockchain, and the metaverse.
“These ‘mega-trends’ build off each other and they accelerate any one individual trend,” Christopher said. Christopher said that the deployment of and use of 5G technologies will contribute to 4.5 million new jobs and $1.4 trillion towards the economy between 2020 and 2030. “None of that takes into account the economic impact of all the mega trends I just spoke of, and how they build on each other.”
Christopher added that in addition to all the benefits of 5G, it is being deployed faster than previous networks. “Look at the fact that 5g is actually being rolled out 40 percent faster than 4G was – from a network build perspective – across all carriers in the United States.”
“We are now at the point – poised for the arrival of applications, of services, and of new business model innovation that rides on top of [5G] just like we saw with 4G,” he said. “5G is all about making everything connected, whether it is faster speeds, lower latency – with features like edge computing, network slicing, better security, private networks, massive IoT – all of these are going to enable applications that were simply not possible in 4G.”
John Smee, chip maker Qualcomm’s senior vice president of engineering and global head of wireless research, explained that the 5G era is now well underway and has left the early stages of its infancy behind. “We are, in some sense, almost halfway through the standardization of 5G,” Smee said. “Now we are embarking on 5G ‘advanced’ – it is a new point of inflection.”
Smee said that Qualcomm’s priorities are now looking past how to simply ensure that all consumers have access to 5G, and has shifted to the specific technology capabilities that will define the generation. He said that Qualcomm has now raised the questions, “what is going to differentiate 5G from 4G [and] how can we make sure it’s a full decade of innovation?”
For Qualcomm, Smee said, this will include innovations such as an expanded cloud network, improved device machine learning and AI, and low-latency application processing at the edge of the networks.
“5G really is a platform for good,” Christopher said. “Whether it’s education, whether it’s climate, whether it’s innovation, and we are just getting going.”
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