LICT Corp., which can trace its roots back to 1996, is best known as a rural broadband consolidator. But several months ago, the company quietly added a new company to its holdings, not through an acquisition, but organically.
Telecompetitor talked to Dylan Larmore, president of the new company, Sound Broadband, about the company’s ambitious fixed wireless (FWA) plans.
“We’re currently helping enable LICT subsidiaries to expand wirelessly,” said Larmore.
In addition, he said, “we will become a service provider ourselves.”
LICT has quietly amassed 177 wireless licenses in various bands, including AWS, PCS, 2.5 GHz, CBRS, 3.45-3.55 GHz, C-band and millimeter wave (24 GHz and 28 GHz bands).
Some of the licenses are in areas where LICT has a subsidiary.
As Larmore explained, “Sound Broadband will be where we have spectrum but no LICT subsidiary.”
Recently Sound Broadband worked with LICT subsidiary Western New Mexico Communications (WNMC) on a test deployment that achieved speeds close to 1 Gbps using FWA equipment based on 5G technology from Ericsson.
This month, Sound Broadband will work with an LICT subsidiary in California and Oregon on FWA launches. Other LICT subsidiaries will get FWA “in 2024 and beyond,” Larmore said.
FWA plans don’t stop there.
“We want to go after underserved communities,” said Larmore. “We want to work with states for BEAD funding and look at how we can expand using the FCC 5G rural fund as well as using our own capex.”
The FCC 5G Fund specifically targets mobile deployments in areas lacking good connectivity.
As Larmore explained, Sound Broadband’s goal would be to provide service in mobile dead zones.
“We’re looking at potentially becoming a mobile provider,” said Larmore, who noted that people in LICT communities often ask about that possibility.
Private wireless is another area on which Sound Broadband plans to focus, Larmore said.
The Ericsson FWA equipment that Sound Broadband used for the testing with WNMC is based on 5G technology. Sound Broadband worked with Ericsson partner Xtreme Enterprises on the deployment.
The companies used 50 MHz of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band combined with 40 MHz of spectrum in the CBRS band. The CBRS spectrum was a mixture of licensed and general authorized access (GAA) spectrum.
The companies saw stable speeds as high as 800 Mbps over distances as great as 4.5 miles when there was a clear line of sight, according to David Tews, president of Xtreme Enterprises. Without line of sight, speeds were in the range of 300-400 Mbps, Tews said.
Sound Broadband may use more than one type of FWA equipment from more than one manufacturer to meet the requirements of specific installations, Larmore said. He added, though that the company likes 3GPP standards, such as those to which the Ericsson equipment is built, because “when we deploy these systems, we’re not handcuffed by a single vendor.”
He also noted that “the antennas are always getting better” and cited potential future internet of things (IoT) applications supported by open RAN for 5G.