nextlink cbrs wireless tower

Nokia has provided details on how it is working with Nextlink Internet to integrate its Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum auction winnings into the 11 states it serves.

The upgrade, which will feature Nokia’s Airscale 4G LTE RAN, will provide downlinks as fast as 100 Mbps and uplinks of 20 Mbps to customers in Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

Nokia says that the two companies are deploying as many as 25 towers per month and will retrofit existing towers. The technology used is “spectrum agnostic” and therefore will be 5G-ready when deployed, Nokia says.

Nextlink acquired more than 1,000 CBRS Priority Access Licenses (PALs) in the auction. The use of CBRS spectrum has the potential to improve coverage and alleviate drawbacks from which unlicensed spectrum suffers such as limited throughput and range.

Last month, Nextlink named Nokia as a key technology partner and said it would provide fixed wireless services to 491 counties in the states named in today’s press release. The price tag of the upgrade – which has a footprint of 14 million people — $28.4 million. In addition to naming Nokia, Nextlink said that Google will provide its Spectrum Access System (SAS).

The spectrum and infrastructure upgrades are becoming more important as bandwidth needs grow and use patterns evolve, both because of natural evolution and the COVID-19 pandemic. “In today’s world, where work-from-home and remote learning have become the norm, the broadband needs of a typical household have exploded, and peak usage patterns have shifted from the evening to the middle of the day, when multiple family members are simultaneously online,” Nextlink CEO Bill Baker said in a press release. “At the same time, small businesses, retail stores, schools, government agencies and other entities need to increase their online presence to support e-commerce transactions, educational offerings, patient services, and more.”

It’s not hard to see why Nextlink and other wireless internet providers (WISPs) are attracted to CBRS. Last month, a webcast featuring Watch Communications and Amplex Internet pointed to a fixed wireless range as great as six miles and speeds of 100 Mbps or more, the announced target of the Nokia/Nextlink project.

The FCC said last month that Verizon spent the most money — $1.9 billion – in the CBRS auction. That money won the carrier 557 licenses in 157 counties. Dish was the biggest winner in number of licenses, with winning bids for 5,492 licenses in 3,128 counties. SAL Spectrum/ATN International (Atlantic Tele-Network and Commnet) was next, with AMG Technology Investment/Nextlink in third.

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