With so many digital divide initiatives in place world-wide, there’s hope that broadband will soon be available at a scale never seen before. This is particularly the case where governments are spending billions of dollars on broadband projects. But the question remains, how long will people with no good broadband options have to wait? It could be a very long time.
Let’s take the example of a U.S. family with a 9-year-old child enrolled in the 3rd grade who currently resides in an unserved location.
In 2022, an operator applies for funding to bring fiber to their neighborhood. The operator’s application for funding is due by the end of 2023 and the award is granted in (let’s say) mid-2024. Once the award is made, the operator has 4 years to build out the network.
Money in hand, the operator goes to their supplier to purchase fiber optic cabling and equipment. Lead times for this can take up to a year (sometimes more) to fulfill. There is also permitting that must occur which, depending on the municipality and regulations, can also take months. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll assume the permitting is finalized at the same time the equipment is received, in one year.
We’re now at mid-2025 before the first fiber is laid with 3 more years of build out. This means the network will not be completed until 2028 or, in other words, when that family’s child is 15 years old and now in high school.
This is a missed opportunity and a much longer wait time than many might realize. Build times will vary and obviously some of the timing will depend on specific funding requirements, but the general idea is the same regardless.
The question then is what, if anything, can be done to speed up the process. One way to do it would be for the operator to buy the fiber equipment and start the permitting process before receiving the grant. But that would require money up front without knowing for sure the grant will be awarded.
Another place to reduce deployment time is with the technology choice. Laying fiber is time consuming and can easily take years to reach every household in a given area. Fixed-wireless, on the other hand, can cover entire neighborhoods in a fraction of the time – months instead of years. With fixed-wireless technology, that 9-year-old would still be in elementary or middle school when high-speed broadband reached their household.
Some would say FWA can’t deliver on speed, or that the economics don’t work. But the reality is much different today than it was just a few years ago. FWA has changed with the development of new next-generation fixed wireless platforms that can meet funding requirements in record time to deploy.
Tarana is uniquely positioned to help operators deploy high-speed broadband quickly with a simplified Layer 2 architecture and radio planning that is easy to build out while delivering the gigabit speeds consumers are demanding. This gives operators the ability to quickly build and monetize their network and, if they choose, complement their FWA with fiber down the road.