One of the big expenses for a small network operator that builds a 4G wireless network is the network operations center (NOC). But an impending deal between a little-known 4G network operator and a Minnesota municipal fiber network operator illustrates a new option available for small 4G networks.
The deal involves Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS), a fiber network operator created by several municipalities that won broadband stimulus funding, and LocaLoop, a developer of a unique 4G mobile wireless offering. The two organizations have signed a letter of intent for LocaLoop to implement a rural 4G WiMax network along the 125-mile fiber ring that SMBS is building in rural southwest Minnesota, said John Schultz, principal and partner with U-reka Broadband Ventures, a consulting firm that works with both parties.
“LocaLoop’s special sauce is its operations support system,” Schultz told Telecompetitor. LocaLoop uses a cloud computing, software-as-a-service approach to network operations, eliminating the need for service providers to build their own NOCs.
According to a release issued by LocaLoop, U-reka and SMBS, the plan is for LocaLoop to create an operating company to implement the WiMax network and to share network profits before taxes with SMBS.
Schultz said the SMBS network will provide backhaul connectivity for the WiMax network. The network initially will provide fixed service, but the goal would be to eventually offer mobile service, he said. Service could be operational on part of the network this year, he added.
Representatives of LocaLoop and SMBS did not return calls to Telecompetitor, but according to LocaLoop’s web site, the company already has a live 4G network, although the site does not specify where. The company has been testing its cloud-based NOC on that network, the site says.
The SMBS network is being constructed in eight rural Minnesota communities using $12.7 million awarded by the Rural Utilities Service, which made the award on a 50/50 grant/loan basis.