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Syracuse, N.Y., and Other Cities Discuss Process of Coexistence With ‘Small Cell’ Wireless Technology in Rights-of-Way

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Photo of small cell installation courtesy CTIA

April 8, 2020 – Syracuse, New York, has made significant strides in implementing small cells technology to poles, according to a webinar hosted by smart city-accelerator US Ignite on Monday.

So-called “small cells” are the wireless transmitters and receivers that go on streetlights on poles in a city. They will make up the “smart city” infrastructure necessary to seamlessly transmit using 5G, the next wireless standard.

The transceivers are smaller than the conventional free-standing cell towers more typical of the 3G and 4G technological eras.

“We have a vision and a strategy in Syracuse called the Syracuse Surge,” explained Sam Edelstein, chief data officer for the city. The Syracuse Surge, Edelstein said, the execution of a commitment the city has to being one of the cities of the future.

Edelstein acknowledged that there is much ground to cover.

“Our internet connectivity in parts of the city is really horrible,” Edelstein said. “In the poorest census tracts, only 25 percent of the pop has broadband and at least one working laptop.”

Current coronavirus concerns don’t help things either, he said.

Edelstein said that buildout contracts with the city’s main partner, Verizon Wireless, have been stalled by residents expressing health concerns. Specifically, in the wake of coronavirus panic, Syracusians have reignited the often discussed but unproven claims that 5G millimeter waves cause cancer.

Nonetheless, Syracuse officials had to convince Verizon to test every single device around the city for health effects – and to shut them down if there were issues.

Despite these setbacks, Syracuse has made auspicious progress in implementing small cells. In fact, the progress has been so good that city officials recently lowered the estimate for universal, 100 percent broadband city coverage from five to three years.

So far Syracuse has had five small cells installed and 41 permits issued for more. Edelstein expects hundreds more coming in the next couple years.

Syracuse is not the only city making headway with small cells speaking on the panel.

Joshua Pace, a spokesperson for Colorado Springs, mentioned on the webinar how the city installed its first batch of small cell poles at the end of 2019.

These “smart streetlights” can gather data like energy use and outages, and they have the ability to dim the lights to conserve energy according to residential needs. Pace expressed excitement for the rollout of more small cell technology.

Pace also said that another priority of his is to erect as few new poles as possible, and to keep the right of way areas clear. The poles are located in traffic intersections and public spaces.

Considering that smart cell poles will need to be at least 30 feet in height, an onslaught of new so-called “street furniture” can obscure the view of pedestrians and thus might pose a threat to the public welfare, Pace said.

David Jelke was a Reporter for Broadband Breakfast. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in neuroscience. Growing up in Miami, he learned to speak Spanish during a study abroad semester in Peru. He is now teaching himself French on his iPhone.

Spectrum

It Will Take Multiple Strategies to Provide Enough Spectrum for Nascent Technologies, Expert Says

Rysavy argued that it would take an “all of the above” approach to meet the coming need for spectrum.

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Photo of Peter Rysavy (left) from January 2018 by the Internet Education Foundation used with permission

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2022 – Spectrum sharing can provide unique opportunities for needed bandwidth, but it is not an end-all-be-all solution, and the U.S. cannot afford to turn down any strategies freeing up more spectrum, a spectrum expert said Wednesday during a Georgetown University event.

Spectrum sharing often refers to dynamic spectrum sharing, a process whereby an operator uses a radio band that is already being used by an incumbent operator. The incumbent may not use the band all the time, and thus the incumbent can allow the secondary operator to use the band when the incumbent does not need it.

During an event hosted by the university’s Center for Business and Public Policy, Rysavy Research CEO Peter Rysavy said that while this process can have useful applications, its utility is not limitless.

Rysavy explained that spectrum sharing solutions have only been developed to address specific scenarios for specific systems. “We do not today have any spectrum sharing solution that is general purpose – that can be applied to arbitrary systems,” he said.

This specialized and complex nature makes spectrum sharing solutions makes them not only more expensive, but also take longer to deploy.

Rysavy advocated for what he referred to as an “all of the above approach,” whereby spectrum sharing, licensed, and unlicensed spectrum strategies are utilized to address the U.S.’s growing need for broadband as 5G services continue to expand.

He referred to several killer applications for 5G, such as home broadband, augmented reality, and the metaverse that will be completely dependent on 5G infrastructure.

“We are really reaching the limits of physics as far as how efficient the technology is,” Rysavy said. “There are other things you can do on the edges, but there is only so far you can go with technology.”

Rysavy explained that growing physical infrastructure – such as increasing the number of small cell signal boosters – is not sufficient in resolving the need for bandwidth. “Ultimately, you do have to keep adding more spectrum into the equation – there is just no other way around it.”

Though Rysavy noted that wireless cannot compete with fiber in terms of bandwidth, he stated that it should not be viewed as a “wireless versus fiber” situation.

“The way to look at it is that we are extending fiber through the environment and close to the endpoint all the time,” he said. “The question then is just ‘how do we connect that last 100 yards?’”

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Wireless

Starry Hosts First Earnings Call, Says its Model Positions it to Compete Against Larger Players

Starry CEO assured investors that Starry’s technology model allows them to compete with other more established providers.

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Photo of Staryy CEO Chet Kanojia, from Starry

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2022 – In its first earnings call since becoming a publicly-traded company, telecom company Starry Inc. reported continued profitability and a desire to expand its services.

Starry, which uses fixed-wireless technology for the last-mile with support from a fiber-based middle-mile, merged with special purpose acquisition company FirstMark Horizon Acquisition Corp to go public in March. Its founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said on the earnings call Thursday that Starry has the potential to be a disruptor.

“The opportunity in broadband is to be able to disrupt the sector with extremely low-cost technologies, and to be able to achieve scale with less investment compared to traditional approaches that have been used in the past,” Kanojia said.

“This is not a concept company – we have found investors willing to finance our approach,” Kanojia said. “However, the business ultimately will require more capital,” adding that last quarter, the average user consumed 574 gigabytes of downstream and a substantial amount of upstream.

Kanojia also emphasized that urban and dense suburban areas continue to make up the majority of Starry’s consumer base.

“In order to succeed as a service provider, we need to be able to match speed and capacity,” he added.

Kanojia also said that connecting a new customer to the network costs around $100, and this is over years of improving and refining the process in order to keep the cost down.

In addition to operating the infrastructure, Kanojia said that Starry owns it as well, which has allowed the company to cut down on supply chain interruptions and exercise more control over how the technology is implemented.

“The underlying economic model remains extremely healthy and unchanged,” Kanojia said. “We continue to see the potential for raising the profitability.

“This gives us a lot of confidence that the underlying economic model works as intended and reinforced our desire to expand.”

Chet Kanojia will be the guest on Broadband.Money’s Ask Me Anything! series on Friday, May 13, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Spectrum

Rosenworcel Proposes Funding Infrastructure and 911 Transition with Spectrum Auction Money

The FCC’s chairwoman spoke on the future of spectrum during a Tuesday CTIA event on 5G’s climate impacts.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel by T.J. York

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday proposed using funds raised in upcoming spectrum auctions held by the commission to fund infrastructure projects and the transition to a next-generation 911 system.

The proposal came as part of a list of potential future areas of focus on spectrum from the commission during Rosenworcel’s session at wireless trade association CTIA’s 2022 5G Summit focusing on 5G’s impacts on climate.

Rosenworcel has stated in the past that she would like spectrum auction proceeds to go towards updating the national 911 system.

Proposed upgrades include allowing 911 callers to send first responders photos, videos and text messages rather than just calls. A bill also exists in Congress to upgrade 911, the Next-Generation 911 Act, authorizing federal grants to go towards the upgrades.

In March the FCC announced that in July it would auction 2.5 GHz band licenses for 5G services.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also speaking at Tuesday’s event, added to the calls for upgrades to the national 911 system.

Rosenworcel also spoke about the possibility of legislation targeting mid-band spectrum and development of next-gen wireless networks, work on updates to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act that governs allocation of spectrum to the commercial sector, as well as a greater focus on receiver performance and procurement practices rather than just examining transmitters.

She emphasized that the commission is always actively working on spectrum policy through the Affordable Connectivity Program, the freeing up of spectrum with a particular focus on mid band, advocating for a national spectrum plan, and broadband data collection via the provisions of the Broadband DATA Act. She stated that the commission is actively involved with National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson on freeing up spectrum.

Additional speakers at Tuesday’s event included director of the White House’s National Economic Council Brian Deese, who noted that in the coming weeks and months there will be many more announcements on broadband funding from the administration on money to come from new and existing sources, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky.

Guthrie voiced frustration with government agencies not designated authority on spectrum over the role they took in public debates on spectrum policy, largely related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s influence over cellular providers to make concessions on their rollout of 5G over safety concerns earlier this year.

“And we must always continue to address inter-agency coordination issues,” said Guthrie.

He stated the necessity of these agencies communicating concerns to the NTIA and FCC rather than directly involving themselves in policy discussions.

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