Wireless Internet Service Provider Guide
In 2017, DoubleRadius did something unprecedented by interviewing some of our Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) customers to create our WISP Essentials Guide. We featured 10 Keys to Success from Industry Leaders. We covered fundamental business practices and touched on some lightly technical areas. This time around, our goal is to put some more “meat on the bones.” We’ve addressed technologies, spectrum, and funding that present opportunities for growth. We also offer examples of successful WISPs at work in these areas. We hope that you’ll experience lasting growth from this new release: WISP Guide 2019 - 10 Ways Successful WISPs Are Growing!
WISP Guide - 10 Ways Successful WISPs Are Growing
Review the chapters below or download the full guide by filling out the form on this page.
- Securing Funds (Part I)
- Securing Funds (Part II)
- Airband ISP Initiative
- Renewed Opportunity with TVWS Equipment
- How to Utilize LTE and CBRS
- Optimizing Network Performance with Antennas
- Going Massive with MU-MIMO
- Winning Premium Business with E-Band Spectrum Gigabit Links
- Tapping into Interference-Free Licensed Links
- New Possibilities with Hybrid Fiber-Wireless Networks
- Wireless Radio Repair vs. Replacement
- Preparing for 5G Networks
Chapter 1 - Securing Funds (Part I): Financing & Rural Broadband Grants (State)
Funds are Essential for Growth
Each WISP has their own unique set of challenges, opportunities and aspirations. Whatever those may be, their finances are inextricably tied to their success or failure. Funds in the form of loans and grants can play an important part of a WISP’s financial strategy. Well-established WISPs may even have staff members dedicated to securing rural broadband grants or auctions as a part of their commitment to aggressive growth and expansion.
Financing Plays an Important Role
Financing enables service providers to remain agile. They can compete by acquiring technology when it’s new, keeping them on the cutting edge. Capital preserved through financing can then be used to hire staff, rent tower space, and make other strategic or operational moves. Additionally, new payments may be tax deductible (consult a tax expert for advice).
Loans can be financed through a variety of sources: local or national banks, private lenders, even through the same agencies that provide grants. The loan process can be cumbersome when applying through national banks and federal agencies. However, another way to receive a loan is through lenders catering specifically to tech companies such as WISPs. Advantages of these kinds of loan through a specialized lender include:
- Simple documentation and procedures
- Flexibility in choosing terms
- Affordable monthly payments spread over the useful life of the equipment
- Minimal up-front cost of ownership
Specialized lenders offer loans based primarily on cash flow, whereas national banks rarely do that today for service providers. This means that working through a specialized lender, loans are less likely to be contingent upon personal financials. Michael, President & Owner from Virginia WISP, shares that:
"As a part of our financial strategy, we’ve financed a wide variety of equipment ranging from backauls, to antennas, to CPEs. We’ve had success borrowing from the specialized lenders introduced to us by DoubleRadius. The process flows smoothly, and it helps for funding our expansion and growth. Financing this way is typically quicker and easier than going through even local banks."
These specialized lenders are eager to do business, and can be the quickest and easiest way to acquire a loan. Additional information on loans through specialized lenders can be found on the DoubleRadius Financing Programs page, including a loan application form for one of our lender partners.
Growth Through Grant Acquisition
Grants are another way WISPs can invigorate their growth. They’re are available through a wide variety of federal and state level agencies, and are typically designed to benefit rural communities lacking adequate internet service. They may be offered directly to the communities needing service, or to the ISPs looking to provide service to them.
State Level Grants
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is a “bipartisan organization providing states support, ideas, connections and a strong voice on Capitol Hill.” The Broadband Statutes page of their website currently lists broadband funding legislation spanning 17 states plus the District of Columbia. Although most of the legislation affects funding (and funding regulation) for organizations in need of service, some states like North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah have grants directly for broadband providers. (Tax incentive legislation is also listed currently for states such as Idaho, Indiana and Mississippi.)
This list of grants is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point. Service providers researching at their local level may very well find that additional grant opportunities exist. Whether funds or tax incentives are directly available for WISPs, or indirectly through funded customers looking for internet providers, growth opportunities generated from rural broadband grants can be found around the country with due diligence.
Community Support Makes a Difference
Nathan, System Administrator for a Wisconsin WISP, shares about how community involvement helped their cause when applying for a local grant:
"We’ve applied for federal and state level grants. We’ve yet to win at the federal level, but we’ve had success in Wisconsin. The state level grants require a little digging online, but are great opportunities when you find them. At the local level, it’s easier to communicate effectively. It’s a less abstract process. They understand you better and there’s no federal bureaucracy.
"We were able to speak with state representatives about our cause. We also told our story through the community, as they wrote letters of support. Local businesses were struggling to hire because their potential employees they didn’t want to relocate to a place without internet access. The grant commission said that what made our application stand out was the amount of letters they received compared to other applications. The public service commission at state level is not as onerous as USDA which can require a full-time person to manage long-term."
The Power of Local Partnerships
Another success story is told by Michael, who was mentioned earlier in this chapter:
"We’ve found that winning state level grants to be much more feasible than federal agency grants. They key is partnering with a county or municipality and building relationships with their administrators. They know where grant money is, and they help with grant writing. In turn, we provide the missing piece of the technology partner they need to deploy, expand, or manage their network as the grow.
"For example, we received a grant from the Virginia Dept. of Housing for nearly 200K. We used that to provide 300 homes with service anywhere from 10-100 Mbps, at about 50% less than projected costs per home. We were required to contribute a 100K match, but we were able to meet that with labor vs cash.
"That formula for success has enabled us to receive multiple other state level grants. The surrounding counties saw the success of our first partnership and brought us on board to partner with them for similar projects. It’s been a huge vehicle for growth."
Joe, Wireless Network Manager for a Midwestern WISP, explains that:
"We’ve partnered with counties to receive state grants, and the counties will actually write the grants to secure the funds."
That’s not to say that WISPs won’t have their fair share of the work and responsibility. Joe also notes that:
"There are still a lot of rules and reporting involved, so it’s not a cake walk. These grants have been 50/50 matches."
The Next Level - Federal Grants
Loans and State Level grants represent a part of the picture for a WISP’s financial strategy for growth. Continue on to the next chapter to learn about how rural broadband grants on the federal level may require more work, but also come with a bigger reward.
Chapter 2 - Securing Funds (Part II): CAF & Rural Broadband Grants (Federal)
Federal Level Rural Broadband Grants
Federal grant acquisition requires commitment. The level of difficulty can be greater, as referenced in the previous chapter. Tackling grants may require assembling a team to “divide and conquer” responsibilities such as project management, application writing, and legal affairs. That being said, winning a grant can make a tremendous difference for a WISP in reaching major milestones and achieving sustained long term growth.
Michael’s WISP from Virginia (mentioned in the previous chapter) was fortunate enough to win grants not only at the state level, but also at the federal level. As he recalls:
We did manage to win a federal grant for a 1M fiber project. This required a 50/50 match, but was nonetheless lucrative. Beyond this initial deployment, we’ll eventually build wireless off the fiber backbone, leading to additional growth opportunities with new customers in the surrounding areas. Now we’ve got our sights set on another 2M grant, which would be a hybrid deployment of both fiber and wireless.
“Something to understand about grants at any level is that there is always an expectation for some skin in the game. All grants require ‘in kind’ support, and at the federal level it can be higher. However, this can be in the form of labor, materials, or cash. WISPs shouldn’t go after grants expecting a full hand out."
Potential CAF Phase III Opportunity
New rural broadband grants at the federal will periodically become available, so it’s important to get organized as soon as information is released when planning to apply. Below are some recent examples:
- ReConnect Grant and Loan Program
- Community Connect Grants
- e-Connectivity Pilot Program
- Connect America Fund (CAF)
Current application deadlines have passed for these particular grants. However, the CAF Fund deserves special attention. CAF Phase I ended in 2015, and Phase II ended in 2018, but a Phase III with funds in excess of 2B is projected for 2021/2022 time frame, although nothing is set in stone. This according to David LaFuria from Lukas, LaFuria, Gutierrez & Sachs, LLP. LaFuria covers additional details for the CAF, and many other grants, in his presentation entitled Broadband Grant, Loan, and Subsidy Programs - 2019, presented by the Wireless Internet Providers Association (WISPA).
The business-changing impact that winning a rural grant on the scale of the CAF can easily be seen with a quick review of FierceWireless’ article entitled, "Here are the Top 100 Winners of the FCC’s $1.5B CAF II Auction". Every one of these grant recipients will be able to do so much more with the funds they’ve appropriated. Get a glimpse of just how busy the WISP winning the largest CAF Phase II grant will be over the next ten years in the article entitled, "Here’s How NextLink - the Biggest CAF II Auction Winner - is spending its $281M".
Decide How to Fund Your WISP
A combination of financing and rural broadband grants can help WISPs makes their goals a reality. Consider the funds you’ll need, how you will acquire them, and the examples mentioned above. Whether you secure a small loan from a specialized lender, receive a state level grant, or find your company at the top of the list of CAF Phase III winners, get the funds in place needed for your growth!
Another way for service providers to gain a financial advantage is capitalizing on corporate incentives. One such example is Microsoft’s Airband ISP Initiative program. Covered in the next chapter, this program is currently scheduled to run through 2022.
Chapter 3 - Airband ISP Initiative: Your Chance to Partner with Microsoft
Helping to Bridge the Broadband Gap
Microsoft developed it’s Airband Initiative in 2017, in an effort to provide rural broadband connectivity to two million Americans, and to lay the groundwork to connect millions more. Key hardware partnerships for the Initiative include chipset and wireless radio manufacturers (see our Microsoft’s Airband Initiative blog). Microsoft has also honed in on TV White Space (TVWS) technology as a key broadband technology that can be utilized to bridge the connectivity gap.
After a successful first year, their December, 2018 press release entitled Microsoft increases commitment to eliminate the US rural broadband gap announced that, “Microsoft is raising its goal for the program and increasing the company’s commitment. The program will reach 3 million Americans in rural communities by July 4, 2022, and is adding additional states, bringing the total to 25 states served by this time next year. The new states include California, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia.” Look for another update from Microsoft, which should be coming in December of 2019.
Microsoft Airband ISP Program
Another important part of Microsoft’s initiative is their Airband ISP Program. This program involves partnerships with those deploying TV White Space equipment in the field to bridge the broadband service gap (more about TVWS in the next chapter).
The Airband ISP Initiative section of Microsoft’s website explains that, "The Airband ISP Program is designed specifically to help ISPs grow their business and become more profitable," and further notes that program members will receive access to:
- Preferential pricing for TV White Space equipment
- Preferential pricing for cloud-based billing and operations software
- Cloud service and device reseller programs
- Digital skills training and content for your customers
Corey, Wireless Engineer for WISP in California that’s been deploying TV White Space equipment in their heavy foliage terrain. He cites the benefits mentioned above as he describes his company’s involvement in the Airband ISP Program:
"Being in the Microsoft Airband ISP program provides us a major discount on TVWS equipment, and also gives us a direct line to an engineer. They’ve been super-responsive over email, as they really want to make TVWS work."
Special Partnerships with ISP Airband Members
Through their Airband Initiative, Microsoft has formed special partnerships with some the it’s with Airband ISP Program members. These include ISPs helping to connect people not only in the U.S., but also around the globe. These broadband partners are often innovative Hybrid Fiber-Wireless ISPs that like Microsoft, are looking to solve connectivity problems with whatever tools necessary. One such example from Microsoft’s Airband ISP Program is that of Astrea:
"Astrea, formerly Packerland, uses a mix of fiber and fixed wireless technologies, including TV White Spaces, to serve its rural customers in Wisconsin and Michigan. Non-line-of-sight technologies are critical in this region due to low population density and challenging terrain and foliage."
In the Microsoft Airband Packerland Broadband Case Study, the company explains that, “We’re a small provider, so we don’t have equity to invest and research opportunities on our own. Microsoft helps us reach for the stars.” They further note value of the Microsoft partnership by stating:
"We can’t do this on our own. Microsoft has our back, sees the same vision we do, and is aggregating partners across the U.S. and the globe to do something about the problem of rural internet access."
Another example of a special partnership is Nextlink, as described in the Broadband Technology Report article, Microsoft, Nextlink team on rural broadband:
"Nextlink will deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies to expand coverage, including wireless technologies leveraging TV white spaces in select markets. Nextlink will continue its deployments in Texas and Oklahoma and immediately begin deployment efforts in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois, with rollouts planned through 2024."
Grow with the Airband ISP Initiative
Visit the Airband ISP Program web page to read additional examples of partnerships, and to join the program today. The Microsoft Airband Initiative provides service providers with resources for growing their networks utilizing TV White Space technology, which we will explore in the next chapter.
Chapter 4 - Renewed Opportunity with TVWS Equipment
Understanding TV White Space
In summary, TV White Space (TVWS) is the spectrum is the inactive or unused space found between channels actively used in UHF and VHF spectrum, spanning roughly from 470 MHz - 790 MHz. Deployments are commonly in rural service areas, where they tend to perform best. This is based on how spectrum is shared with powerful analog TV stations, as well as its inherent characteristics. It’s ideal for long range, non-line-of-sight (NLOS) deployments, as Its low frequency can penetrate through trees and buildings. Regarding the distance that can be covered with TVWS, Dusty, Director from a Texas WISP, notes that:
"We’re currently in a TVWS pilot program, working with radios that will have enough output power to shoot 40 miles. We’re excited to see where this leads and how we’ll be able to add TVWS equipment into our network in the near future."
Similar to the CBRS band (covered in a later chapter) access to the TVWS band is controlled by a Spectrum Access System (SAS) database, which provides channel availability to operators. Since all TVWS devices must be registered with the SAS, a benefit of the over time is that the SAS will provide valuable data for predicting noise levels in service areas.
Renewed Interest and Imporved Technology
TV White Space is not a new technology, but one that has been in operation and under development for years. As mentioned in the previous chapter, it’s a focus of Microsoft’s Airband ISP Initiative. Microsoft’s infusion of interest, R&D, and partnerships have brought renewed attention to the technology from the WISP industry and beyond. More radio manufacturers are now exploring the possibilities, which makes this an exciting time for TVWS possibilities. Matt, Owner & CEO of a Pennsylvania WISP, shares his perspective on the evolution of TV White Space, and his current usage:
"When TVWS equipment was initially introduced, there was potential but no mature product offering. Huge progress has been made since then, and the equipment is available for a reasonable price now. For a very dense foliage, non-line-of-sight (NLOS) scenario, we are currently getting very good performance at 1 mile. We’re seeing 40 Mbps throughput in a 10 meg channel. Compared to 900 MHz where we can run into interference, making for a mediocre link, utilizing the lower end of TVWS spectrum (450 - 500 MHz) is interference free."
Corey, Wireless Engineer for a California WISP, is the Airband ISP Member from our previous chapter. Being in the program has made it easier for them to get equipment in their hands and begin testing in the network. After assessing their terrain, his company was able to make the following assessment:
"Our use of TVWS equipment will be in our non-line-of sight (NLOS) mountainous communities where we currently use 900 MHz. This could help us to avoid interference in 900 MHz caused by the forestry service and public safety."
Nathan, System Administrator from Wisconsin, also describes how his WISP plans to utilize TVWS as part of their offerings:
"We’ve purchased TV White Space gear that we’re currently preparing to deploy. We see our main application as connecting outlying potential subscribers that are currently out of range in rural areas. Secondarily, there may be PTP scenarios for higher bandwidth customers that works for us as well."
A Better Chance for TV White Space to Succeed
Unprecedented attention is being given to TVWS. With the increase in companies investing in the technology, and the partnerships being formed through the Microsoft Airband Initiative and ISP Program, there’s a greater chance for success now more than ever. Like other spectrum and technology, there are still issues to work through and discoveries to be made. Nonetheless, TVWS presents an opportunity for growth for service providers that are savvy enough to exploit it.
In our next chapter, we’ll turn our attention to another technology (and spectrum) that has seen a recent surge of interest and progress: LTE & CBRS.
Chapter 5 - How to Utilize LTE and CBRS
Breaking Down the Complexities
Breaking it down to basics, the key advantages of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology include superior NLOS performance, clean spectrum access, standards based interoperability, and scalability. Much of the fixed wireless deployment of LTE will take place in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) 3.65 GHz band, although LTE can also be deployed in other bands like 2.5 GHz and 5 GHz.
The CBRS band, aka the “Innovation Band,” is technically the lightly-licensed spectrum between 3550~3700 MHz, regulated for commercial deployment as Part 96 Rules. Although the primary use will be for LTE, the band will include other non-LTE equipment that is CBRS/Part 96 compliant. Access to CBRS is divided into the following three tiers, each tier being protected from interference from the tier(s) below it:
LTE devices must be installed by a Certified Professional Installer (CPI) and registered with a Spectrum Access System (SAS), which controls spectrum sharing. Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) Sensors will detect radar from navy ships and prevent any commercial interference as they move along coastal areas using the band. For a more detailed breakdown, visit our LTE & CBRS page that includes our LTE & CBRS webinar recording from August 2019. Read also our CBRS blog series.
The Building Buzz
As you may have noticed, LTE & CBRS are buzzwords to broadband providers and equipment manufacturers alike (see list of corporations below). This spans the cellular industry, the WISP space, and others offering broadband (CLEC/ILEC, MSO, utilities, municipalities, etc.). That’s because deploying LTE and operating in the CBRS band present exciting new growth opportunities for all parties involved.
The Initial Commercial Deployment
The Initial Commercial Deployment (ICD) is essentially a test run of the SAS across limited geography. On Sept. 16th, 2019, the CBRS Alliance announced that the ICD was official underway in their article entitled, FCC Authorizes Historic OnGo™ Deployments in 3.5 GHz CBRS Band, Opens Billions in Economic Opportunity for U.S. This is an important development because after the ICD, the final time line decisions will be made to determine tier access.
This article names the following large corporations that all have a vested interest in LTE & CBRS:
- Charter Communications
*Updated on 2/21/20 - The FCC announced on Jan. 27, 2020, that the FCD (Full Commerical Deployment) is officially underway. For more details, see the CBRS Alliance press release entitled, FCC Authorizes Full Commercial Deployment of OnGo™ Service in 3.5 GHz CBRS Band, Unleashing Billions in Value with New Wireless Services.
LightReading also reported Amazon’s increasingly vested interest in the CBRS band on Sept. 13th, in their article entitled, Amazon Shows More Interest in 3.5 GHz Wireless Networks. Here they cite Amazon’s plans for expanded testing in the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum band. The article also explains the value proposition of the CBRS spectrum:
"The 3.5 GHz band has been hailed as ‘Goldilocks spectrum’ because it offers just the right balance between coverage and capacity. Due to the propagation characteristics of transmissions in mid-band spectrum like the CBRS band, signals can travel for miles and penetrate buildings while also carrying a significant amount of data."
These sentiments are echoed in the comments of some of the service providers we spoke with about their use of LTE. For example, Dustin, WISP CEO from Florida, explains that:
"We’re using LTE to provide faster speeds - 10 Mbps at minimum. The days of 1-2 Mbps connections are gone. This creates opportunities to increase plans existing customers are on, and connect new customers that we just couldn’t connect before."
Don, President of a N.C. WISP notes that:
"We see LTE as one of the tools in our toolbox. LTE can be used in near and NLOS environments where we can’t connect with 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, backfilling to pick up extra subscribers for areas with heavy foliage. If/when higher output become available we could really expand our usage of LTE."
Michael, President & Owner from Virginia, similarly describes their WISP’s LTE usage:
"We currently have LTE deployed under our 3.5 GHz NN license, and if nothing else, we’ll continue this usage in the GAA under the new CBRS rules. However, we’re looking seriously at the PAL licenses in the nearby counties, as we see LTE as critical to our growth."
Dusty, Director from Texas, reports how his WISP has a great thing going with LTE in their network:
"We’ve started to upsell our 900 MHz customers to faster LTE service in 3.65 GHz. They were getting about 10 Mbps and it was inconsistent at times. Now with our LTE service they’re getting 50 Mbps consistently. We’ve already moved 10 customers over, and expect to be up to 30 within about a month. What’s more exciting is that we have half a dozen other similar areas of our network where we plan to roll out the same LTE upgrade."
LTE Requires Understanding
LTE deployments don’t just happen. They require skillful management. Matt, WISP Owner & CEO from Pennsylvania, has a sober view of the increased challenges of operating LTE in his coverage area. Despite its challenges, Matt notes the effectiveness of LTE in their network:
"LTE was designed for cellular, with GPS Synch. It stays connected easier. However, LTE is not WiFi, so there are more hiccups. If you understand it, you can make it work for you. I can hook up a client with LTE that I just couldn’t with WiFi. It has the ability to go through trees and scoop up more subscribers. We’ve added a few 100 more customers with LTE than we otherwise would have been able to. It’s a part of our offerings that enables us to do more."
All things considered, operating an LTE network is quite doable with the proper preparation and planning, and the benefits can provide WISPs the competitive edge needed for growth.
Become Another LTE Success Story
All of these examples have made LTE work for them in their networks. The opportunities are ready to be cashed in with careful planning and execution. Stay informed on CBRS by subscribing to the DoubleRadius Blog and make LTE work for you. Our next chapter on selecting antennas covers an important topic that not only relates to LTE, but extends to every kind of fixed wireless deployment.
Chapter 6 - Optimizing Network Performance with Antennas
As Antennas Go, So Goes the Network!
Successful WISPs have networks that perform well, and antennas pay a crucial role in effective network design. An optimized network is one that can connect customers with a strong signal while preventing issues from RF noise. Antennas are not always given the attention they deserve, but access points and subscriber units are only as good as the antennas they are paired with.
Hasty antenna selection, along with poor network design, can result in irregular coverage patterns. This translates to poor or non-existent coverage to the customer. On top of receiving interference from other networks, antennas can cause self-interference. As antennas go, so goes the network! That’s why it is critical to carefully consider antennas when optimizing your network.
Selecting Quality Sector Antennas
Using quality sector antennas can make all the difference in successfully connecting customers from the access point. Some of the key factors to keep in mind when selecting your sectors include:
- Gain Consistency - evenly distributed gain across the entire frequency range prevents spotty coverage, and enables the maximum number of subscribers.
- Front-to-Back Ratio - this is the ratio of noise between the front and back of a directional antenna, and is key to frequency reuse. A higher front-to-back ratio reduces interference on opposing APs.
- Avoiding Nulls - these are weak signals generated by the antenna at various intervals. Nulls are often found closer to the antenna and prevent operators from connecting customers closest to the tower.
For more details on each of the above considerations, read our two part blog series entitled, 3 Key Factors for Choosing Sector Antennas.
Dividing and Conquering
The number of sector antennas used in a coverage areas, and the degrees that they each cover, also have a significant impact on the success of the network. Matt, Co-Owner and Network Engineer of a Missouri WISP, reflects on what he’s learned over the years about antennas in network design:
"120 degree sectors are an inexpensive way to cast a wide net, but that’s not the most effective. If I had a do-over, I would isolate customers to as small a footprint as possible. I would shoot a 30 degree signal instead of 120 degrees. Think more like six radios serving 30 degrees each. What you’re looking for is a solid signal/noise ratio. Cast more small nets instead a fewer large ones. Equipment and software have matured to the point where you can do this effectively. Additionally, horn antennas help to isolate the signals you want from those you don’t."
Dusty, WISP Director from Texas, describes the specific strategy that his WISP uses for antennas to help them scale and grow:
"We’ve developed our own set of rules for antennas. We shoot for no more than eight sectors per tower, and a max of 30 clients per sector. Those customers are connected at three miles out or further. For clients closer to the tower, we utilize horn antennas. We have anywhere from one to two dozen horns on the tower. If we can configure three of the 30 degree horns to cover a certain area, each with 15 max clients, this allows us to reduce the density of clients per AP."
Horn Antennas for 5 GHz
"Horns" are mentioned in the examples above. Horn antennas currently operate in the noisy and crowded 5 GHz unlicensed spectrum, and are designed inherently to reject noise. This allows service providers to scale and expand into environments that would otherwise be impossible with standard sector antennas.
What makes them so effective can be summarized by the following:
- Zero loss adaptors for connectorized radios.
- Optimal RF Signature - clean, precise and uniform radiation angles without side lobes.
One new feature of horn antennas is the option of an asymmetrical beam. These models have the same zero loss and noise rejection as the symmetrical models, but with higher gain. They also have a radiation pattern similar to a traditional sectors. (Note the noise caused by side lobes of traditional sectors in the image below - image provided by RF Elements.)
For more information, watch our recorded webinar with horn manufacturer, RF elements, on Optimizing Your Network with Innovative Antennas. Nathan, WISP System Administrator from Wisconsin, is a big fan of horn antennas. His approach to antennas is:
"Feed horns whenever you can, sectors when you need to, and omins as a last resort. That being said, their needs to be a cost justification. The practical antenna for serving an area with only 10 customers is often times an omni. On the other hand, when there’s a density of good paying customers, horns are the way to go, as they will provide the most isolated, narrow beam."
Good In, Good Out
Using quality sector and horn antennas is key to the success of a network. Likewise, dividing the coverage area with an adequate number of APs will enable quality service, and will allow for subscriber growth. Adding these good “ingredients” will allow you to get the most out of your network. In our next chapter, we’ll see the impact of MU-MIMO, another technology that’s a springboard network improvement and growth.
Chapter 7 - Going Massive with MU-MIMO
Rising to the Connectivity Challenge
In a time with ever-increasing demands for bandwidth, Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) technology helps service providers effectively meet customers’ expectations. Rising to the challenge enables WISPs seize new opportunities for growth that would otherwise go missed.
MU-MIMO Hard at Work
Dustin, CEO of a Florida WISP, notes use within his network:
IMAGE/DIAGRAM OF MU-MIMO
How Does MU-MIMO Perform Better?
Compared to traditional access points (AP’s), MU-MIMO AP’s feature ground-breaking spectral efficiency. They communicate (via sophisticated antennas) with multiple Subscriber Modules (SMs) simultaneously in the downlink, in the same channel, with the same channel size. MU-MIMO AP’s will therefore at least double downlink throughput, as they use the same time frame to serve two SMs instead of one, with the same throughput. (See illustration on the previous page.) Learn more about MU-MIMO technology in our Wireless Features Series article, Advantages of MU-MIMO for ISPs.
Roland, President from an Indiana WISP, describes his WISPs’ strategy for MU-MIMO, and their success in using it:
"When our APs reach subscriber capacity, they become good candidates for an upgrade to a MU-MIMO AP. On one tower, some customers were connected via an omni and others were connected on a sector. Once we had the new MU-MIMO AP in place, we could connect all 25 subscribers spanning about 150 degrees, and the sector and omni were no longer needed. MU-MIMO gives us better penetration, enables us to connect more simultaneous customers, and allows us to use wider channels to deliver more capacity."
Joe, Wireless Network Manager for a Midwest WISP, tells the story of his WISPs use of MU-MIMO in a different type of application. They provided WiFi service for a special event, at which the number of connected users was truly impressive:
"We provided an WiFi solution for a big outdoor concert venue with over 10,000 in attendance. The venue had issues at previous events with attendees bringing electronic tickets up on their phones via 4g data, due to the high volume of connections registering to nearby cell towers. This held up thousands of people when trying to gain admission. This was a problem the venue didn’t want to repeat.
"Our deployment included 12 base stations, each containing three MU-MIMO radios. We mounted them on light poles on the outside on a structure in the middle of the seating. We buried fiber between most of the poles, also adding 60 GHz mmWave to a few. The base station’s high performance in this incredibly dense subscriber environment enabled us to connected over 400 people per base station. Our network seamlessly handed off client devices from Basestation to Basestation, and we were able to achieve success in a very complex RF design."
Dusty, Director of a Texas WISP, shares his observations on how MU-MIMO could be put to use it in their network:
"We’re seeing how MU-MIMO could help us at tower locations where we’ve already maxed out with 400-500 subscribers. Ideally, we’ll move to MU-MIMO to provide improved service, as well as add subscribers"
Massive Possibilities with MU-MIMO
As the name implies, what’s referred to as “massive” MU-MIMO takes the technology even further. Massive MU-MIMO APs communicate with a larger number of SMs in the downlink simultaneously. As a comparison, MU-MIMO doubles simultaneous subscribers, whereas Massive MU-MIMO can increase simultaneous subscribers up to seven times. Jay, Asst. Manager of Plant Operations from Kansas, explains his company’s use of massive MU-MIMO:
"We deploy internet service in all forms, but for our rural Kansas customers, we utilize wireless. We initially deployed 3.65 GHz WiMAX, and today that gear is EOL. We’ve been transferring our LOS/nLOS 3.65 GHz WiMAX customer base over to 5 GHz ‘massive’ MU-MIMO. This is now allowing us to offer more speed to feed all the hungry customers. We’re seeing some APs serving +100 Mbps of capacity to +40 subscribers, and these massive MU-MIMO APs show they still can handle more.
"During our phase-out of legacy EOL 3.65 GHz WiMAX over to the 5 GHz MU-MIMO, we knew that not all customers would not be able to make the cut. We’ve been testing the 3 GHz massive MU-MIMO (CBRS compliant), and we’re seeing great performance within this 3 GHz platform. Our continued 3 GHz MU-MIMO deployment will totally phase out our EOL 3.65 GHz WiMAX."
Whether going “massive” or not, service providers that utilize MU-MIMO can increase their revenue by A) supporting more customers even in the most dense environments and B) charging premium prices for premium service. This premium theme will be continued in our next chapter devoted to the E-Band spectrum.
Chapter 8 - Winning Premium Business with E-Band Spectrum Gigabit Links
E-Band in a Nutshell
E-Band spectrum is in the 70 - 90 GHz mmWave range, and includes roughly 13 GHz of spectrum. The E-Band is under a nationwide (NN) “light” licensed, and locations must be registered with the FCC. Interference protection in the E-Band spectrum is “first come, first served."
1+0 radio configurations can deliver up to 10 Gbps with microseconds of latency, and links run in pairs can achieve up to 20 Gbps. Although capacity is extremely high, distance is relatively short for E-Band links. One to two miles is much more realistic than five to ten miles. Humidity is also a consideration impacting distance, so factoring rain rate is important. Bear in mind that It’s important to talk to an educated industry professional for real world answers on link distances and speeds. Don’t simply rely on spec sheets. (DoubleRadius is here to help!)
For a deeper dive into E-Band technology, watch the recording of our E-Band Opportunities - Offering Premium Gigabit Service webinar.
True Alternative to Fiber
For scenarios requiring speeds beyond that of microwave, the extremely high capacity of mmWave spectrum E-band makes it a true fiber-like alternative. In addition to meeting or beating fiber speeds, advantages of E-band over fiber include:
- Fixed cost - does not increase as length of link increases
- Ability to traverse highways, railroads, or bodies of water
- Elimination of challenging right of way and potential zoning issues
- Ease of urban and “Brownfield” area deployment
- Immediate ability to begin earning ROI after quick installation
Matt, WISP Co-Owner and Network Engineer from Missouri, underscores the importance of E-Band to one of their successful network models:
"We use E-Band spectrum radios with a fiber backbone to backhaul 10 Gbps wirelessly into a town where we are delivering high capacity service. We’re connecting clients at anywhere from 100 Mbps - 1 Gbps across town."
E-Band links can also be used in complementary hybrid fiber-wireless applications - a subject that will be covered in a later chapter. One such example is described by Nathan, System Administrator from a WISP in Wisconsin describes how:
"We hit a roadblock when we couldn’t extend fiber the entire link distance to our customer. We solved this problem by deploying a 70 GHz link to cover the last 2,500 feet. This 700 Mbps bi-directional E-Band link provides the fiber-like bandwidth needed for this deployment."
Often times, E-Band can also be the answer for complex installations in urban scenarios involving older buildings.
Delivers Big Time with E-Band
The premium solutions described above lend themselves to a premium price tags. The sky’s the limit for higher end clients when service providers can offer a gig without batting an eye, and up to 20 Gbps when clients need ultra high speed. As mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, E-Band spectrum is considered “lightly licensed.” Before we look into Hybrid Fiber-Wireless applications, the next chapter will deal with the microwave licensed links.
Chapter 9 - Tapping into Interference-Free Licensed Microwave Links
Licensed Means Better Backhaul
Licensed links are often the best solution for backhaul, but some service providers today continue to deploy all unlicensed PTP. A common objection is price, but there are also misconceptions or even a lack of awareness. Florida WISP CEO, Dustin, states plainly that:
"Everyone starts out in unlicensed, but all of our backhaul is now in licensed microwave. 6 GHz - 18 GHz works well for our rainy region. 6/7 GHz gets us about six miles, whereas 18 GHz gets us two or three miles. We can get a gigabit signal with no interference in licensed."
Using licensed links does not necessarily mean using them exclusively. Each WISP needs to determine what’s the best business case and use of all frequencies for their network, based on a number of factors including capacity, distance, terrain, weather, and interference. Don, President of N.C. WISP, explains their mixed use of licensed and unlicensed spectrum:
"There’s no magic in the physical properties of the equipment. We use 2.4, 5, 24, and 60 GHz unlicensed equipment when there’s little to no interference in those bands. For noisy environments where that’s not possible, we deploy 3 and 11 GHz licensed microwave because it works better for those applications. In one case, we have a 37 mile link in unlicensed 5 GHz with a 4 ft. dish. That’s not going to work for everyone everywhere, but for his link path, it works. In another case, one of our longer licensed links is an 11 GHz running 9 mile at 1 gig (half duplex)."
Reasons for Deploying Licensed Radios
The truth about utilizing licensed spectrum is that it includes the following key benefits that would make any service provider’s life easier, as it would make their network better:
- 10 Years of Protection from Interference
A Part-101 license assigned by the FCC is exclusive to the licensee, guaranteeing them protection legally from interference for at least 10 years. Compare that to unlicensed spectrum, in which it’s harder to find clean spectrum to start with. On top of that, there’s no guarantee that clean spectrum today will be interference free in the future with the arrival of new neighbors.
- Increased Data Security
Licensed links are inherently more secure than unlicensed, with 128 and 256-bit encryption. This is critical for opportunities with medical facilities, banks, public safety, governments or schools.
- Five-Nines Reliability
Service providers with SLAs have contracts that specify monetary penalties for broken links and down time. Licensed links can be designed with up to 99.999% availability. This is simply not something that can be guaranteed over unlicensed spectrum. Every second unconnected can be prove costly in these scenarios.
Dusty, WISP Director from Texas, explains his WISP’s approach to licensed backhaul:
"We use licensed microwave backhaul when we require more bandwidth than an unlicensed link can provide. So usually if consumption is more than 200 Mbps we start looking at a licensed solution or a fiber to the tower solution. We normally don’t worry about subscribers, just throughput. We try to keep links under 15 miles so we can keep reliability above 4 nines. Dish size plays a big role for licensed links, so we make sure we build towers that can suit more than a 3 foot dish in areas we think a licensed link may be necessary. All our links are in the 11 GHz band. We’ve found this band provides the best throughput for our needs. The 6 GHz band requires much larger dishes and the 18 GHz band does not travel the same distance."
Corey, WISP Wireless Engineer from California, also explains their use of licensed backhaul in their network:
"We use licensed for our backhaul when the business case supports it with enough customers. A typical link is 15-20 miles with gigabit capacity, but with large enough dishes we can connect reach double the distance. We keep our multipoint mostly unlicensed."
Matt, & CEO of a Pennsylvania WISP, describes his shift to licensed backhaul after realizing its advantages, and how that decision also improves their use of unlicensed spectrum:
"We previously used 5 GHz unlicensed microwave for backhaul, but recently we’ve been switching to 11 GHz licensed links. There’s no interference, and it allows us to utilize all of our 5 GHz spectrum for multipoint applications. 11 GHz is perfect for us because of distance, antenna size, and available spectrum. We reach up to 9 miles with 2.5 ft dishes."
Considerations for Licensed Microwave
Radios are an integral part of your licensed link. Key features to consider when purchasing your radios include:
- Spectral Efficiency
Defined as the number of bits that can be transported in 1 MHz of spectrum. The more bits a radio can deliver in 1 MHz of spectrum the more efficient it is.
The higher the QAM a radio can achieve, the higher the spectral efficiency will be. QAM will cause the radio to adjust modulation to help keep it connected during adverse weather conditions, or when potential interference approaches the network.
- Transmit Power
The transmit power is the amount of RF energy a radio generates. More transmit power means that less gain will be required to amplify the signal.
Having two or more radios being encased in one unit increases capacity without increasing the footprint. Additional cores can be active immediately, or saved for when extra capacity is needed.
- Spatial Diversity
The use of two antennas connected to one radio to mitigate multipath interference, which is when a radio receives the same signal from two or more paths. This occurs in limited scenarios, such as links crossing over water.
For additional considerations such frequencies, radios, antennas, accessories and free tools, read the third article of our three part Licensed Link blog series.
Different Types of Licenses
As opposed to unlicensed bands such as 700 MHz*, 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz, 24 GHz, and 60 GHz mmWave, the following bands involve licensing to one degree or another:
“Lightly Licensed” - lower cost and faster than traditional licensing:
- 2.5 GHz (Sprint & Educational use)
- 3.5-3.7 (CBRS band)* - watch LTE & CBRS webinar recording
- 4.9 GHz (Public Safety)
- 70-90 GHz (E-Band mmWave) - watch E-Band webinar recording
*It’s noteworthy that although 700 MHz is unlicensed, it is similar to the CBRS band in that spectrum allocation is controlled by a privately run SAS.
Common Part 101 Licensed Microwave Frequencies:
- 6 GHz (watch 6 GHz webinar recording)
- 7 GHz
- 11 GHz
- 13 GHz
- 18 GHz
- 23 GHz
Acquiring Your FCC License
The case for licensed microwave backhaul is compelling, especially for WISPs seeking to expand and grow networks, and to improve their service offerings. The process of obtaining a license is fairly straight-forward, although it doesn’t happen overnight.
To get started with your licensed link, fill out our Licensed PTP Configure & Quote form. Or for a step by step overview of the Part 101 licensing process, read the second article of our three part Licensed Links blog series to get started. Our next chapter ties together the high performing microwave and mmWave wireless with fiber in what are called Hybrid Fiber-Wireless networks.
Chapter 10 - New Possibilities with Hybrid Fiber-Wireless Networks
What is a Hybrid Fiber-Wireless ISP?
WISPs offer broadband service over networks that transmit a wireless signal point-to-point and ultimately to each subscriber. Wireless has taken its various forms through the years, including WiFi, WiMAX, and LTE to name a few. Although these networks are typically fed with a fiber connection to the Internet backbone, they are still considered “wireless” networks. Traditional ISPs, on the other hand, utilize wired networks evolving from copper and DSL to mostly coax and fiber today.
When we talk about a Hybrid ISP, we are referring to modern ISPs that deploy a combination of fiber and wireless in their networks, either separately or working together in one network.
Comparison of Wireless & Fiber Advantages
The main advantages of wireless vs fiber can generally be summarized in the chart below:
|WIRELESS VS. FIBER COMPARISON|
|Total Area that Can Be Covered||Wireless|
|Time to ROI||Wireless|
|Capacity (Bandwidth)||Neutral (see Chapters 8-9)|
|Length of Time Before Upgrade||Fiber|
The above chart is a generalization, and each situation has variables impacting the pros and wireless vs fiber. Other considerations like long term profitability and difficulty of providing support are debatable.
When WISPs Should Evolve to Hybrid
From the side of a WISP, adopting the Hybrid Fiber-Wireless model take a flexible approach to extend their network to customers that are otherwise out of reach. Service Providers that connect customers in these types of scenarios will enjoy growth that will prove impossible for their less versatile competitors.
WISPs may realize that fiber will prove more practical or convenient for certain applications within their networks when:
- Line-of-sight / tower access is unavailable
- Environmental conditions are unfavorable (ie too much rain fade)
- Interference exists in unlicensed spectrum
- Competitors with licenses are present
- Fiber is necessary to meet customer requirements
WISPs diversifying with fiber offerings open the doors for more opportunities, especially with commercial clients or new residential developments. Don, a WISP President from N.C., shares his experience working with real estate developers, and opportunities made available by adopting a hybrid approach:
"Some developers want to offer fiber as a selling point to new residents. They’ll pay $1,000 - $1,500 per lot in new developments to have fiber installed. In one case, we got the fiber install job for a new development, but also locked in 100 new customers on top of that with the future residents.
"For another upcoming project, we’ll be using our new miniplow to bore a mile of fiber one foot deep, operating it through it through remote control. This will allow our plow operator to observe the drill breaking through the end of plow segments.
"On the other hand, we’ve deployed a significant amount of wireless (backhaul, multipoint, and WiFi). For example, a 60 GHz wireless link at a distance of about 1.5 km that provides 1 gig (full duplex) to a downtown area."
Options for Micro-Pop Bandwidth
A combination of the factors mentioned in the bullets above may also contribute to fiber being preferable method for feeding bandwidth to a “micro-pop” (a location close to a condensed cluster of the clients, from which served high-speed wireless service is provided). Dustin, CEO of a Florida WISP, notes how his company typically uses is this fashion:
"Everywhere we can, we have hybrid fiber-wireless deployments. The closer we can get to the customers, the better. We’ll feed fiber to a micro-pop where we then connect subscribers wirelessly. Other times, we reverse things and backhaul wirelessly to tower, where we’ll then run FTTH to a nearby neighborhood."
Again, versatility is the key. More options means more solutions and opportunities for growth. The same is true on the flip side. Reasons for fiber ISPs to go hybrid and add wireless to their offerings are covered in our Hybrid Fiber-Wireless ISP Quick Guide. One quick example you may recall from chapter 8 on E-Band, was what Nathan, System Administrator from Wisconsin had to say:
"We hit a roadblock when we couldn’t extend fiber the entire link distance to our customer. We solved this problem by deploying a 70 GHz link to cover the last 2,500 feet. This 700 Mbps bi-directional E-Band link provides the fiber-like bandwidth needed for this deployment."
Pairing Up for Redundancy
Whether a primary connection is wireless or fiber, a redundant connection of the other type can provide a diverse fail-over strategy. Hybrid Fiber-Wireless ISPs can have the assurance of diversified redundancy. If one connection goes offline do to a cut line or a tropical storm, the other connection will remain intact. Don, from earlier in the chapter, notes the same is comments:
"Sometimes we use wireless for fiber redundancy. Other times we solely deploy wireless."
Have the Best of Both Worlds
Don, Dustin, and Nathan all see how having the versatility to offer fiber, wireless, or a hybrid puts more options at their disposal, and increases the chances for success. The invest in their quality solutions to get the job done right.
DoubleRadius has dedicated an entire other guide (a shorter “Quick Guide”) to the subject of being a Hybrid Fiber-Wireless ISP. Download the Hybrid guide to dig deeper on this topic.
Investments in equipment for networks, hybrid or wireless, will hopefully last for years on end. But what’s the best course of action when the unexpected happens and equipment goes down? Our next chapter addresses how repairing equipment can be a helpful part of a service provider’s strategy.
Chapter 11 - Wireless Radio Repair vs. Replacement
Houston, We've Got a Problem!
What happens when that storm causes damage to an expensive unit or your tower, or some of your subscribers units start having performance issues up? A significant part of a growth plan is having contingency plans in place when things go wrong. When it comes to replacing or repairing wireless radio equipment, there are a few things to keep in mind. This chapter offers some decision factors as well as some insights into how other service providers are handing these situations.
Decision Factors for Damaged Equipment
When forced to face the reality of damaged equipment, it’s common for WISPs to base their decision of the cost originally paid for the unit.Joe, Wireless Network Manager for a WISP in the MidWest, agrees with this principal:
"We’ll repair our costly APs, but also some of our switches. Although some are inexpensive, other switches can run us over $600 per unit. In those cases, we spend the money to repair them when we have issues."
Nathan, System Administrator from a Wisconsin WISP, considers costs and a number of other practical factors:
"The main factors we use to determine whether or not we repair gear are age of equipment, price, and subscribers served off of it. We wouldn’t replace an inexpensive subscriber unit but we would absolutely repair an expensive access point that costs more, and has greater value by providing connectivity for many customers."
Other important questions to consider are:
- Can I still get significant value out of the equipment?
- Do I have time for a radio repair?
- Is it really time to upgrade anyway?
- If I get a new version, will it be backwards compatible?
Having a plan ahead of time instead of reacting in the moment is the best protection against poor decision making.
Being Proactive and Prepared
To the point of preparedness; Dusty, Director from Texas, explains how his WISP takes planning ahead a step further:
"We always keep spares of everything in-house, in order to be prepared for weather damage or device failure. When we have an issue, we always start with RMAs. Often times, a radio repair is free. If the repairs are going to cost us, then our decision is based on the cost of the unit. We will pay to have an expensive AP or PTP radio repaired, although not inexpensive CPEs."
Wireless Radio Repair Service Now Available
In 2019, DoubleRadius began offering repair service that includes:
- Flat fee based on the model
- 6-month warranty
- 10 day turn around (typically - some repairs may take more time)
- Expedited 48-Hour repairs for an additional fee
Visit our repair page for a list of nits currently covered. If you’re in need of repair for another radio not listed, call us at 866-891-3602 to ask if we can help with that as well.
As this chapter dealt with preparing for unexpected damage to equipment, our final chapter also deals with preparing for the unexpected. This time, the focus is on preparing for the elusive, new 5G standard.
"My partner rep answers my questions and provides quick turnaround. He lets me know when items we use are getting low in stock. His teammate has also helped us with understanding 11 GHz licensing."
"Items are typically in stock. We have a better price point. It’s nice to call my partner rep and get the scoop on certain products. He keeps his ear to the ground."
"I have a very good working relationship with our partner. My rep has been thorough in asking what current and future needs are. They always seem to have inventory, and they can forecast based off our run rates. They meet and exceed our expectations. Our rep is always calling, asking about our needs and wants. I have no complaints compared to what I was used to with the other vendors. They are hands down one of the best vendor providers they’ve ever had."
Chapter 12 - Preparing for 5G Networks
You Deserve a Bonus!
Now that we’ve covered 10 ways that successful WISPs are growing, let’s take a look at a new topic with a lot of questions still lingering...5G networks!
Ready, Set, OnGo™
Chapter five explains how the CBRS Alliance is paving the way for LTE deployment through their OnGoTM service, system, and standards. However, the CBRS Alliance also states in CBRS Alliance Extends OnGo™ Support for 5G Deployments that OnGo will do the same for 5G WiFi:
"OnGo™ shared spectrum solutions...will support OnGo™ over 5G. As OnGo™ commercial services over LTE are poised for rollout, CBRS Alliance Release 3 will address support for 5G deployments using shared spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. The shared spectrum paradigm presented by CBRS has immense potential."
The article further explains how critical both the CBRS band and OnGo™ will be to 5G WiFi success:
"Utilizing the CBRS band can be a key enabler for making 5G deployments possible. The Alliance is hard at work developing technical specifications to ensure that OnGo™ supports 5G applications as seamlessly as traditional LTE services...The specifications in development include addressing coexistence requirements to ensure seamless interoperability between LTE and 5G NR in and out of Band 48, certificate-based authentication, and more."
Why is CBRS Good for 5G Networks?
CBRS is not the only band that will be used for 5G, although it may be the band in which WISPs will have the greatest success. In their article entitled What is 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)?, software developer Metaswitch states:
"Of the three primary frequency bands envisioned around the globe for the purpose of 5G, those in the mid GHz range are most appropriate for FWA. Providing superior coverage and moderate throughput, the 3.4-3.8 GHz band is appropriate for low density suburban or rural areas."
The article compares the use of this CBRS mid-band with other 5G frequencies like 700 MHz and 24- 27 GHz. PC Magazine’s What Is 5G? article also discusses 5G frequencies from a carrier perspective. The CBRS Alliance article also adds that:
"Opening a large swath of mid-band spectrum for 5G services [is] another pioneering move that will keep the U.S. at the forefront of the global race to 5G."
How Fast Will a 5G Network Go?
As for what is officially 5G, Lifewire’s article entitled, 5G Speed: How to Understand the Numbers explains the specs. In order for a network technically considered 5G, each base station must have a minimum peak upload and download rate of 20 Gbps and 10 Gbps respectively, and also have a minimum latency of just 4 ms - possibly 1 ms in some cases. The article goes on to explore how that actually might translate for an internet subscriber in terms of speed, and offers a comparison movie download times compared to previous “generations.” Suffice it to say that the potential speeds is great, but still TBD once 5G networks actually get deployed.
One carrier in PC Magazine’s What Is 5G? article notes initial mobile speeds, “a little bit faster than 4G, but not multiple gigabits fast.” They also offered the following prediction:
"Are we going to see average speeds start to move up by tens of megabits per second? For sure. We would love to see average speeds triple, or move to 100 Mbps, but that’s a journey that’s going to take time in the industry"
The Digital Trends article Is 5G as fast as they’re saying? shows a max speed of 1-10 Gbps, but an average speed of 50 Mbps+ per mobile user. WISPs on the other hand, won’t have official fixed wireless 5G networks in place for some time (see following chapter for a timetable). We did, however, speak with some WISPs about their services that they consider “5G.” This varied from “LTE,” to service ranging from 100 Mbps - 1 Gbps deployed on anything from 5 GHz to 60 GHz mmWave.
5G Rollout Timetable
The same What Is 5G? article referenced above notes that AT&T launched 5G in 12 cities at the end of 2018. Major carriers have since joined what they are calling the Race to 5G. As for the Fixed Wireless deployment of 5G using the OnGo 5G service, the following lists shows that beginning of 2020 is the goal:
- Sept. 16, 2019 - Start of the ICD
- Q4 2019 - Anticipated conclusion of the ICD and full commercial approval of SAS
- Early 2020 - Projected OnGo 5G service availability
*Updated on 2/21/20 - see CBRS Alliance press release, FCC Authorizes Full Commercial Deployment of OnGo™ Service in 3.5 GHz CBRS Band, Unleashing Billions in Value with New Wireless Services.
Time to Get Certified?
Just how big will the impact of 5G be for WISPs? Broadband Technology Report’s article, Fixed wireless access to exceed $6 billion by 2024, shows one analyst’s prediction that:
"By 2024, the 5G fixed segment is expected to represent more than 50% of total FWA revenue."
Although that remains to be seen, but the 5G potential in real. As things unfold, what can you do to get prepared for implementing 5G in your network? Start by getting your field staff certified as CPIs. As a reminder from chapter five, the SAS uses a certification database to determine channels and transmit power when a CBRS device CBSD) is registered. A Certified Professional Installer (CPI) is required to guarantee the accuracy of the installation data on a CBSD install.
Although a CPI can be hired to do your CBSD installs, you may prefer to handle this on your own. Training is offered both on-site and online. For more information on becoming a CPI visit the WInnForum training page.
Everybody wants faster internet. “5G” is on their minds because carriers are bombarding them with 5G advertising. 2020 could be a big year for 5G and for WISPs prepared to capitalize on all the hype with a proactive business plan. Now it’s time to bring it all together and wrap things up with our conclusion.
Growing WISPs are a Win for All
Now that we’ve covered 10 ways that successful WISPs are growing, let’s take a look at a new topic with a lot of questions still lingering...5G networks!
Ready, Set, OnGo™
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this WISP Guide to Growth. We’ve seen 10 ways that successful WISPs are growing, and even had a bonus chapter on the topic of 5G.
As you grow your WISP, refer to this guide for ideas and reminders. Something else to remember is that what you do as a service provider matters! We’ll leave you with a quote from Trisha, C.F.O. of an Iowa WISP. Trisha captures the spirit of why many of you do what you do, and the impact that you have on your communities:
"We have several small towns in our coverage area where no other providers will invest in because they aren’t populated enough to be worthwhile. While fiber is expanding as well, having a wisp is still valid because we can reach these overlooked areas where fiber companies won’t reach because of such a limited population. Once you get into these small towns, they are so grateful and excited when they get WiFi. They are also some of our kindest and most loyal customers (and our best advertisement!)
"For homes that don’t have a need for super high speeds, they can’t justify paying fiber prices. We can offer it to them at a far reduced price and still get them more then enough to serve their needs."