Nextlink Internet has announced details about its plans to bring fixed wireless access (FWA), along with fiber broadband, to underserved and unserved rural communities in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.
The company was one of the top ten winners in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, winning $429 million. In late August, the FCC said that it was ready to authorize RDOF funding for Nextlink to cover some of the costs of bringing high-speed broadband to unserved rural areas.
Nextlink is collaborating with Tarana, which will supply its G1 fixed wireless platform. The platform can deliver service in non-line of site (NLOS) deployments using both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, according to a press release.
Nextlink won RDOF funding to deploy a combination of fiber broadband and fixed wireless. The fixed wireless technology is required to support speeds of 1 Gbps in some areas and 100 Mbps in other areas. According to today’s press release, the company plans to deploy 500 Mbps fixed wireless in areas where it was only required to deploy 100 Mbps.
In response to email questions from Telecompetitor, Nextlink Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Legal Officer Claude Aiken said the company has seen 500 Mbps performance at up to nine miles from the tower.
“We anticipate future generations will be able to easily support gigabit wireless at long distances as well,” Aiken said.
Although some fixed wireless manufacturers use a mesh approach to extend coverage by enabling each customer’s system to act as a repeater for nearby customers, that’s not the approach that Tarana uses, a Tarana spokesperson explained in an email to Telecompetitor.
Instead, Tarana uses a macro-cellular model meaning base nodes are mounted on tall vertical assets, such as cell towers, that cover many square miles, the spokesperson said.
According to Aiken, each Tarana access point can support up to 256 customers but Nextlink doesn’t expect more than 50.
The FCC didn’t require RDOF winners to deliver symmetrical service, but Aiken said the Tarana equipment is capable of doing so.
Nextlink plans to rely primarily on fiber backhaul, but for some remote towers it uses multi-gigabit wireless backhaul, Aiken said.
“The digital divide remains a pressing issue for most Americans in rural areas, and service affordability is also a big problem in many mainstream markets,” Nextlink’s CEO Bill Baker said in a press release. “G1 is enabling us to address these issues at large scale at a pace measured in months instead of years. Early users on the network are enjoying affordable, uncapped high-speed internet access. We’re looking forward to building this network out quickly.”
Nextlink said that it will invest $1 billion in unserved and underserved communities and will engage in public-private partnerships across 11 states.
Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.