By Kevin Cunnie, Principal-in-Charge, Telecommunication Engineering
The “digital divide” is about to become a lot narrower for cities, towns and rural areas across America. Helping to bridge that divide will be $65 billion allocated to broadband expansion as a part of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which allows resources intended to make high-speed broadband more widely available to more people than ever before.
The lion’s share of the broadband expansion funding will be the more than $42 billion to be distributed through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. This part of the legislation will direct money to areas of the country currently unserved or underserved by broadband access.
Contingent on the release of federal infrastructure funding, many municipalities and local governments are expressing interest in building their own broadband network infrastructures through public/private partnerships with local businesses. Others are exploring the potential of implementing wireless networks to provide 5G online access to all users within defined areas. Both techniques offer avenues to answer the lack of reliable, affordable internet access that has been experienced by many localities and rural areas. And, both approaches are gaining the support and collaboration of a growing number of internet providers across the nation.
What are the differences between cable versus wireless infrastructures for the delivery of local internet access, and what are some of the pros and cons of both?
Clearly, many consider cable networks to be the gold standard for internet traffic, especially those utilizing fiberoptics instead of older tech such as coaxial or copper. Fiberoptic signal strength is particularly robust and tends to maintain high integrity over distance. Also, fiberoptic systems are better able to handle high-traffic demand during peak periods without compromising speed. However, installation of fiberoptic cable networks where they did not exist before can be costly, time-consuming and introduce greater complexity in terms of permitting, rights of way and logistics required for initial builds.
Conversely, towers transmitting microwave-fixed wireless signals can be installed quickly, literally in days, both at lower cost and with reduced commitment of resources for installation and maintenance. The one potential drawback is that, unlike cable-based broadband networks, signal strength of a wireless network can attenuate over distance from the transmission tower. In addition, wireless may be more susceptible to slowdowns during peak periods.
That said, the needs and profile of a locality will determine which of these telecom alternatives may be the better choice. Municipalities with higher population densities and the ability to install and maintain a cable network are likely to opt for the many benefits of fiberoptics. Rural and remote communities may be better served by wireless technology implemented with financial help from federal infrastructure funding and able to be brought online relatively quickly.
Whatever alternative a municipality may choose, the WT Group is well positioned to help develop and build new broadband infrastructure and capabilities, providing businesses and individuals with online access beyond anything they may have experienced before. In addition to providing network designs and managing all permitting requirements, the WT Group can play a key role in helping to build out broadband projects in rural areas where high-speed online access has been spotty in the past.
Drawing upon the talents of Telecommunications team members licensed to assist clients across the U.S., WT Group will deliver detailed, customer-specific broadband infrastructure designs to commercial, institutional, federal, state and private-sector organizations. Our team has active contracts with all major wireless carriers and many regional providers, including those that have signed on to the federal BEAD program. We look forward to helping underserved communities bridge the digital divide and unlock the limitless potential of full access to the global community of the World Wide Web.
Contact us today to learn more about how WT Group can provide telecommunications services to your projects.