Infrastructure Bill Opportunity to Show Efficiency of Shared Infrastructure, Conference Hears

Broadband expansion can happen fast if grant money includes stipulations to share infrastructure, Jonathan Adelstein says.

Infrastructure Bill Opportunity to Show Efficiency of Shared Infrastructure, Conference Hears
Jonathan Adelstein, on screen, Earl Peek and Deborah Simpier, seated.

HOUSTON, September 28, 2021 – The infrastructure bill can go a long way if municipalities that receive the billions in funding require grant recipients to share the network with other providers, said the president of the Wireless Industry Association.

“In order to incentivize competition, municipalities might look to ask grant applicants, can they provide shared infrastructure? Are you funding a shared infrastructure model where multiple competitors could come in?” Jonathan Adelstein asked Monday at the Digital Infrastructure Investment conference.

“Colocation is the fastest way to get that done,” he emphasized, adding broadband is just like “real estate with a technology overlay.”

The House is possibly looking at a Thursday vote for the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate in August. Available for broadband in the package is $65 billion. Adelstein said this is the opportunity to make efficient use of the money by sharing the infrastructure and not overbuilding.

Efficiency is one of the main drivers of colocation, Adelstein argues. “Municipalities have been very smart about promoting colocation, for example, so there’s not tower farms like there are overseas.” Because of these evident efficiencies, colocation and shared infrastructure has become the preferred method of both investors and policymakers, he said.

“Cities are thinking about smart city applications,” said Deborah Simpier, co-founder and CEO of Althea Networks. “When you think about infrastructure we need to start thinking more in a holistic sense. Existing assets can be leveraged for broadband, for smart cities applications and even mobility to your handsets. The shift with shared infrastructure is that instead of thinking just about broadband in a silo or just handset or mobility, we can think about networks holistically.”

Earl Peek, founder and managing partner of Diamond Ventures and Peek LLC, said that in his conversations with small town mayors, assistant secretaries in the interior and treasury departments and the governor of Michigan, he found that, “there’s a lot of shareable infrastructure from the United States in the parks, federal buildings, and army bases that have been closed. Those can be repurposed and used for sharable infrastructure.”

“There’s so many assets to be shared. There’s so many ways we can deploy faster and not just wait for the infrastructure,” Peek said.

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