Building a Community Wireless Broadband Network

Caroline Brown, Account Executive, SmartWAVE Technologies
Caroline Brown, Account Executive, SmartWAVE Technologies

Caroline Brown, Account Executive, SmartWAVE Technologies

As life increasingly moves online, many underserved communities across the United States are at risk of being left behind. To help close this digital divide, companies like us, SmartWAVE, are working with municipalities to ensure all residents, regardless of income level, have access to the digital tools they need to succeed.

Who are we?

SmartWAVE is a leading wireless-centric solutions integrator with over 15 years of experience in the planning, designing, integrating, and managing of wireless networks, along with the unique applications and IoT devices that these networks support.

Although we support indoor and high-density wireless networks for our clients, our outdoor wireless network services are unmatched in the industry. We attribute this to our proven methodology, our hardware/software/technology agnostic approach, our team of highly experienced and specialized resources for designing and deploying outdoor wireless networks for municipalities and our investment in the toolsets required to build award winning networks.

The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is not something that is a new challenge within our communities, it has just come to light now that there is funding to overcome it. The digital divide is simply separation of those communities who don’t have access to broadband or can’t afford it versus those who can. We view connectivity as a utility in today’s society, just as you would need water or power.

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, SmartWAVE had the opportunity to provide unserved and underserved residents with free, reliable WiFi enabling citizens to work and learn remotely.

Things to Consider

Partnerships: SmartWAVE is extremely familiar with how a municipality works and the specific requirements of each department in order to deploy a project like this. Our experience in deploying these projects is working with Public Works, Information Technology, Transportation, Economic Development, County Administrators, and Elected Officials along with other departments that may be involved in the project. 

Other relationships to consider would be partnering with a school district, non-profits, or forming a consortium. It could also be beneficial to try to bring in Carriers if you need fiber access and internet services,

Technologies Choices: When serving wireless connectivity to communities, there is no “one silver bullet” solution that can meet the unique needs of every environment. Solutions architectures can leverage a range of technologies to include WiFi, FWA, CBRS, mmWAVE, PTP, PTMP, and many others to ensure the network is flexible and scalable.

 

  
​SmartWAVE is a leading wireless-centric solutions integrator with over 15 years of experience in the planning, designing, integrating, and managing of wireless networks, along with the unique applications and IoT devices that these networks support

   

 

 

Service Levels: It is important to establish what levels of service are expected before building out the network. Coverage Vs Capacity: WiFi offers 1000+Mhz of capacity but transmits a shorter distance while CBRS offers up to 150Mhz of capacity but can transmit at a longer distance than WiFi, and in the wireless space, Mhz account for Mbps.

What are the bandwidth requirements? 100/100, 100/20, 25/3?  Zoom requires 3.8Mbps/3.0Mbps for a high-quality video call while Netflix can require 3-5Mbps to stream. If a municipality is providing this as a free service, how much bandwidth is considered necessary? Remember…some connectivity is better than no connectivity.

Adoption: Once the network is built out it is extremely important to promote adoption and awareness of the network. Some cities have put up billboards and flyers to promote the service while others engage the community through training programs, or engaging community-based businesses for Marketing sponsorships for support. These programs provide awareness and pride promoting GDP within the community, reducing sustainability cost through advertisements and increasing tax revenue.

Funding: What are the real costs? This could the design, equipment, electrical remediation, tower/asset construction on opportunity cost. How can you fund those cost? Broadband funding, corporation contributions for connectivity, voter approved bond funds, and many others.

Summary

Through our experience in providing digital divide solutions, we realize there is no “one silver bullet” or “one size fits all” approach with respect to providing wireless broadband within our communities. Every project is unique and has a wide range of factors that need to be considered such as program adoption, SLAs, and timeline to deploy. Whether it be due to affordability or accessibility, everyone deserves a right to connectivity to participate in today’s digital society.