AT&T is not the only U.S. carrier attempting to provide broadband fixed wireless access to rural areas. CenturyLink has requested an experimental license from the Federal Communications Commission for a test to reach isolated rural areas via a fixed wireless service over the 3.4 GHz to 3.7 GHz spectrum band.
The trial is aimed to evaluate the use of wireless spectrum to provide broadband services to those rural areas where it’s difficult to make wire-line infrastructure/facilities available.
“The testing seeks to understand the viability of new technologies in this band,” CenturyLink wrote in an FCC filing.
“CenturyLink seeks confidential treatment for the Exhibit on the basis that it contains confidential commercial information, technical data and trade secrets concerning CenturyLink services under development and related testing processes, all of which CenturyLink customarily guards from public disclosure,” CenturyLink said.
Besides the 3.4-3.7 GHz bands, CenturyLink is looking at how it might work with other network service providers rolling out future 5G wireless networks.
Glen Post, CEO of CenturyLink, told investors during the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in September that it would be open to such partnerships to accelerate the speed at which it is rolling out service to rural areas under the CAF-II program.
“On the wireless side, we want to partner with 5G providers and other wireless providers where we can bring higher speeds to customers at less costs,” Post said. “If some of the proposed wireless build-outs occur in the CAF-II areas we cover, we think it will be a lower-cost opportunity to reach those customers and cover higher speeds for a lot more customers with that type of technology.”
CenturyLink joins several other rural-centric providers like Frontier, Consolidated and Windstream are seeing similar potential. As we’ve previously noted, AT&T’s rural wireless broadband recently added 9 more states.
Frontier confirmed it was conducting tests of how it can use fixed wireless to address the broadband availability problem in very rural areas via the FCC’s CAF-II funds.
Frontier joined Consolidated and Windstream in a joint FCC filing (PDF) related to a request to create flexible use of spectrum bands between 3.7 and 24 GHz.
Consolidated and Windstream also expressed interest in being able to use 3.7-4.2 GHz band spectrum for rural fixed point-to-multipoint deployments, such as through the rules proposed by the Broadband Access Coalition.
The service providers said that these spectrum bands would “provide another key tool in the toolbox to reach the hardest to serve rural Americans.”