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Broadband Communities Summit Reprises Age-Old Question About Fiber Versus Wireless Networks

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Screenshot of participants in Broadband Communities Virtual Summit

September 29, 2020 — A panel of experts with experience deploying both fiber and wireless networks weighed the pros and cons of each technology during a virtual conversation on Thursday streamed as part of the Broadband Communities 2020 Virtual Summit.

The panelists recognized that there are benefits and shortcomings to each technology. Both fiber and wireless networks will be required to close the digital divide, they said.

“Using the right tool for the job” was a common refrain during the discussion.

“Fiber needs wireless and wireless needs fiber,” said Nathan Stooke, CEO of the Wisper wireless internet service provider in Illinois. He said it may not be beneficial to spend a great deal of time on the age-old question of “fiber or wireless,” although the panel still engaged in a lively discussion on the topic.

Mike McGannon, vice president at Engineering Associates, laid out the case for fiber to the home deployments. He said “fiber requires high capital expenditure and is slow to deploy, but has a low operational expense and holds its value over time. The payback on a fiber network is easily realized in five to ten years.”

McGannon noted that fiber networks are “more likely to offer symmetrical speeds and provide higher latency, which is required by smart cities and internet of things technology.”

“Fiber is more resilient when faced with environmental disruptions than wireless networks,” he said, adding that fiber networks are “estimated to have a 30 to 50-year lifespan, which no other technology can compete with.”

In defense of wireless networks, Brett Glass, founder of Lariat.net, retorted that “wireless has a low capex and is super-fast to deploy.” Yet he also noted the downsides to maintaining wireless networks, saying “they have higher operational expenses and offer speeds nowhere near what fiber is capable of offering.”

But Glass maintained that in some places, and during some points in time, wireless remains the better option.

He detailed a build conducted in a town where only five people lived per square mile in North Dakota, saying it was the financially the smartest option.

Glass further urged that wireless networks have been crucial during the coronavirus pandemic as many have rushed to expand their networks to serve the unserved, as quickly as possible.

While wireless networks allow for broadband to reach consumers sooner, “the rising demand for fiber” and symmetrical upload and download speeds cannot be ignored, said Carroll Faulkner, president and CEO of Digital Fields. Faulkner upheld that “the competitive landscape is trending towards fiber.”

Former Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband. She is now Associate Broadband Researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Network Initiative.

Expert Opinion

Jeff Blum and V. Noah Campbell: Unleashing the Next Wave of American 5G through Competition in the 12 GHz Spectrum Band

Allowing 5G use of the 12 GHz band will lead to better broadband.

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The authors of this Expert Opinion are Jeff Blum of DISH and V. Noah Campbell of RS Access

September 29, 2020 — A panel of experts with experience deploying both fiber and wireless networks weighed the pros and cons of each technology during a virtual conversation on Thursday streamed as part of the Broadband Communities 2020 Virtual Summit.

The panelists recognized that there are benefits and shortcomings to each technology. Both fiber and wireless networks will be required to close the digital divide, they said.

“Using the right tool for the job” was a common refrain during the discussion.

“Fiber needs wireless and wireless needs fiber,” said Nathan Stooke, CEO of the Wisper wireless internet service provider in Illinois. He said it may not be beneficial to spend a great deal of time on the age-old question of “fiber or wireless,” although the panel still engaged in a lively discussion on the topic.

Mike McGannon, vice president at Engineering Associates, laid out the case for fiber to the home deployments. He said “fiber requires high capital expenditure and is slow to deploy, but has a low operational expense and holds its value over time. The payback on a fiber network is easily realized in five to ten years.”

McGannon noted that fiber networks are “more likely to offer symmetrical speeds and provide higher latency, which is required by smart cities and internet of things technology.”

“Fiber is more resilient when faced with environmental disruptions than wireless networks,” he said, adding that fiber networks are “estimated to have a 30 to 50-year lifespan, which no other technology can compete with.”

In defense of wireless networks, Brett Glass, founder of Lariat.net, retorted that “wireless has a low capex and is super-fast to deploy.” Yet he also noted the downsides to maintaining wireless networks, saying “they have higher operational expenses and offer speeds nowhere near what fiber is capable of offering.”

But Glass maintained that in some places, and during some points in time, wireless remains the better option.

He detailed a build conducted in a town where only five people lived per square mile in North Dakota, saying it was the financially the smartest option.

Glass further urged that wireless networks have been crucial during the coronavirus pandemic as many have rushed to expand their networks to serve the unserved, as quickly as possible.

While wireless networks allow for broadband to reach consumers sooner, “the rising demand for fiber” and symmetrical upload and download speeds cannot be ignored, said Carroll Faulkner, president and CEO of Digital Fields. Faulkner upheld that “the competitive landscape is trending towards fiber.”

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Rural

Groups Heap Praise on FCC for Corrective Action on Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

The agency is scrutinizing the winning bids for the $9.2-billion fund, and asking companies to consider withdrawing.

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Former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, foreground right, and current Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, background.

September 29, 2020 — A panel of experts with experience deploying both fiber and wireless networks weighed the pros and cons of each technology during a virtual conversation on Thursday streamed as part of the Broadband Communities 2020 Virtual Summit.

The panelists recognized that there are benefits and shortcomings to each technology. Both fiber and wireless networks will be required to close the digital divide, they said.

“Using the right tool for the job” was a common refrain during the discussion.

“Fiber needs wireless and wireless needs fiber,” said Nathan Stooke, CEO of the Wisper wireless internet service provider in Illinois. He said it may not be beneficial to spend a great deal of time on the age-old question of “fiber or wireless,” although the panel still engaged in a lively discussion on the topic.

Mike McGannon, vice president at Engineering Associates, laid out the case for fiber to the home deployments. He said “fiber requires high capital expenditure and is slow to deploy, but has a low operational expense and holds its value over time. The payback on a fiber network is easily realized in five to ten years.”

McGannon noted that fiber networks are “more likely to offer symmetrical speeds and provide higher latency, which is required by smart cities and internet of things technology.”

“Fiber is more resilient when faced with environmental disruptions than wireless networks,” he said, adding that fiber networks are “estimated to have a 30 to 50-year lifespan, which no other technology can compete with.”

In defense of wireless networks, Brett Glass, founder of Lariat.net, retorted that “wireless has a low capex and is super-fast to deploy.” Yet he also noted the downsides to maintaining wireless networks, saying “they have higher operational expenses and offer speeds nowhere near what fiber is capable of offering.”

But Glass maintained that in some places, and during some points in time, wireless remains the better option.

He detailed a build conducted in a town where only five people lived per square mile in North Dakota, saying it was the financially the smartest option.

Glass further urged that wireless networks have been crucial during the coronavirus pandemic as many have rushed to expand their networks to serve the unserved, as quickly as possible.

While wireless networks allow for broadband to reach consumers sooner, “the rising demand for fiber” and symmetrical upload and download speeds cannot be ignored, said Carroll Faulkner, president and CEO of Digital Fields. Faulkner upheld that “the competitive landscape is trending towards fiber.”

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Fiber

Windstream Focuses on Gigabit Infrastructure for Future Broadband Challenges

Company head says scalable, gigabit future is a priority now to deal with future broadband challenges.

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Photo of Tony Thomas from his address during Fiber Connect 2021.

September 29, 2020 — A panel of experts with experience deploying both fiber and wireless networks weighed the pros and cons of each technology during a virtual conversation on Thursday streamed as part of the Broadband Communities 2020 Virtual Summit.

The panelists recognized that there are benefits and shortcomings to each technology. Both fiber and wireless networks will be required to close the digital divide, they said.

“Using the right tool for the job” was a common refrain during the discussion.

“Fiber needs wireless and wireless needs fiber,” said Nathan Stooke, CEO of the Wisper wireless internet service provider in Illinois. He said it may not be beneficial to spend a great deal of time on the age-old question of “fiber or wireless,” although the panel still engaged in a lively discussion on the topic.

Mike McGannon, vice president at Engineering Associates, laid out the case for fiber to the home deployments. He said “fiber requires high capital expenditure and is slow to deploy, but has a low operational expense and holds its value over time. The payback on a fiber network is easily realized in five to ten years.”

McGannon noted that fiber networks are “more likely to offer symmetrical speeds and provide higher latency, which is required by smart cities and internet of things technology.”

“Fiber is more resilient when faced with environmental disruptions than wireless networks,” he said, adding that fiber networks are “estimated to have a 30 to 50-year lifespan, which no other technology can compete with.”

In defense of wireless networks, Brett Glass, founder of Lariat.net, retorted that “wireless has a low capex and is super-fast to deploy.” Yet he also noted the downsides to maintaining wireless networks, saying “they have higher operational expenses and offer speeds nowhere near what fiber is capable of offering.”

But Glass maintained that in some places, and during some points in time, wireless remains the better option.

He detailed a build conducted in a town where only five people lived per square mile in North Dakota, saying it was the financially the smartest option.

Glass further urged that wireless networks have been crucial during the coronavirus pandemic as many have rushed to expand their networks to serve the unserved, as quickly as possible.

While wireless networks allow for broadband to reach consumers sooner, “the rising demand for fiber” and symmetrical upload and download speeds cannot be ignored, said Carroll Faulkner, president and CEO of Digital Fields. Faulkner upheld that “the competitive landscape is trending towards fiber.”

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