It feels like it is wireless week in DC….a summit on 5G technology, the announcement from Frontier that they will be using CAF II resources to build out some of their most rural portions of their service area with a point-to-multipoint radio technology, Google’s announcement that Google Loon will be bringing cell coverage to devastated Puerto Rico to get them up and running again on the communications front (which relies on wireless backhaul from cell phone companies – another challenge given the few number of cell towers up and remaining) and then there is Musk’s SpaceX satellite internet that is scheduled to go into orbit in 2019…assuming Tesla’s mass production efforts go well.
As someone who is currently pounding away on my iPad keyboard in the middle of another airport, with my smartphone at my side, I am all about mobility. It’s who we are and how we live. However, this unilateral focus on wireless solutions for rural broadband must catch it’s collective breath long enough to focus on the technology. None of this cool, high capacity connectivity happens without wired network supporting it…and preferably a future-proofed fiber one at that. Couple that with the continued limitations of wireless. For example, the need for open line of sight to consumers, towering towers that are placed closed enough to transmit consumer appropriate speeds, congestion on the network issues and other factors that make even achieving the FCC mandated speeds of 10/1 Mbps a challenge.
To put it quite simply, a wireless network is only as good as the wired infrastructure that lies beneath it. More users and devices on a wireless network eventually lead to more wired infrastructure upgrades to accommodate increased traffic and consumer demands. No doubts about it, there is a symbiotic relationship between wired and wireless network and I only hope policymakers continue to keep this physics lesson in line as they continue to craft policies for broadband deployment.