According to NRECA Broadband (BB) report 2018, approximately 6.3 million rural electric co-op (REC) households, totaling 13.4 million people, lack access to adequate-speed broadband services (25/3 Mbps).
Today, 28% of Electric Cooperative members lack broadband connectivity in comparison to 10% of the total US population that remain without broadband access. The importance of broadband internet cannot be underestimated, especially in rural communities where the younger generation is migrating to metropolitan areas, weakening their economic situation. Measures need to be taken to reverse this trend but access to broadband Internet is a fundamental requirement.
Why RECs are well positioned to provide broadband Internet access
RECs have a compelling advantage when providing broadband Internet access to their community. Their electric service operations, facilities and human resources are in place and ready to be shared.
Alternatively, if a separate subsidiary is planned for establishing BB services the REC can be a great asset during the launch process.
Broadband deployment challenges
The main challenge RECs face when analyzing the financial feasibility of providing Internet service, is the cost of the infrastructure to connect between the data center and the premises of each community member.
Many RECs consider deploying fiber, the ultimate BB connectivity media, although an analysis by Ericsson shows that deployment of fiber along one mile, costs around $21,000. This is a lot of money when considering community member homes are scattered over a wide, low-density area with few houses per mile (5 or less).
Based on this information, the Return of Investment (ROI) for fiber deployment could take 10 years or more. More disturbing is the overall investment required when considering that a typical REC has over a few thousand members. This makes the ‘green light’ decision even harder in case there is an obligation to connect each member home while there is no committed service take rate.
Resolving budgetary issues with Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)
Fixed Wireless Access technology dramatically reduces infrastructure network costs to a fraction of the price of fiber. An FWA network consists of base stations located on electric poles. Each pole can be equipped with a few (typically 4) outdoor units that provide 360° wireless connectivity within typical radius of 5-10 miles.
When using FWA, only the base station poles are connected via fiber (or microwave) to the core network. Community member homes are connected over wireless using a compact outdoor unit that is installed on the rooftop or wall of the house and only upon a member becoming a paying subscriber.
Main advantages of FWA include a much lower investment, less sensitivity to terrain and density of homes, shorter time to market - months rather than years and a much faster ROI.
Over recent years several Electric Cooperatives have deployed RADWIN’s fixed wireless access solution to offer triple play services for residential and business community members at speeds of 100 Mbps, all within a short time frame and a workable budget.
RADWIN FWA has been deployed in two different scenarios: as a sole infrastructure solution to all REC members or as a complimentary solution to fiber where fiber is not affordable due to tough terrain or long distances.
RADWIN FWA offers carrier-grade and durable equipment to assure a highly reliable broadband service. The network is easy to plan and products quick to deploy with RADWIN Operational Support System (OSS) tools that guide you throughout
the deployment process.
“With RADWIN’s JET PtMP subscribers are getting faster speeds and the customer experience is phenomenal!” Loren Howard, CEO of the San Luis Valley Electric Cooperative
Valley Communications delivers high-speed broadband to customers using JET PtMP Beamforming solutions