RCRC Rural Broadband Update

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is under mounting pressure to re-evaluate the accuracy of the broadband mapping data used in the commission’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report.  On June 2, 2019, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) became one of the loudest critics yet when he pointed to the disparities between the FCC’s report and a 3rd party study conducted by Microsoft.

In addition, Congressman Doug Collins (R-Georgia), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai requesting the commission consider a more accurate and reliable approach to mapping broadband coverage.  Unreliable broadband coverage data from the FCC paints an overly optimistic picture of broadband coverage in rural areas and undermines the ability of policymakers to prioritize funding for areas that are truly underserved.  More members are calling for improvements to broadband mapping data to better address the digital divide and improve broadband coverage in rural areas.

Source: RCRC Barbed Wire Newsletter

Amazon’s Broadband Network from the Ground Up

Amazon has not launched any LEO Broadband Satellites like SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat but they already have a ground station network for controlling satellites, uploading and downloading data. Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, announces its availability in the video below:

The AWS Ground Station Network is a fully managed, ready-to-go ground station service, featuring:

  • No upfront cost.
  • Scaleability — you only pay for antenna time.
  • No long-term contract.
  • Self-service scheduling on a per-minute basis, that can be changed dynamically using their ground station console.
  • Secure transmission.
  • Low latency due to proximity to Amazon data centers.
  • Integration with EC2, S3 and other Amazon services and Amazon’s global network backbone.
  • Simultaneous up/download.
  • Support of most common communication frequencies.

 

The open question is will SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat use this service?

RCRC Commentary: Empower Local Communities to Close the Digital Divide

Greg Norton President and CEO of Rural County Representatives of California.

The deployment of broadband infrastructure supporting speed-of-commerce connectivity is among the most critical missing components needed to drive economic development in California’s rural communities. Broadband access is essential to connecting rural communities to the 21st century economy. Yet the barriers to deploying infrastructure continue to inhibit access in some of California’s most disadvantaged communities in both rural and urban areas.

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) represents 36 of California’s 58 counties, covering approximately 56 percent of the state’s land mass. It is estimated that merely 47 percent of California’s rural households within this population area have access to high-speed broadband.

I recently had the opportunity to speak about this crisis on a panel before the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) titled “The Imperative of Digital Inclusion.” In their 2016-17 Annual Report, CETF identified internet access as a “21st Century Civil Right,” and the internet is now firmly established as an operational epicenter for business, government, education, information, and basic services.

Access to broadband provides multiple economic and social benefits to rural residents by allowing access to vital government services and resources. Broadband contributes to job creation, economic growth and business investment improves access to critical healthcare services, and expands access to educational resources and opportunities. Broadband access for farmers and ranchers would allow for improved stewardship of our natural resources through the use of technology to monitor and measure water and soil conditions and usage.

Local governments have joined forces in advocating for the acceleration of broadband deployment in California’s rural communities, and have outlined a number of key provisions. First, the technology deployed must be an appropriate fit for the area — high-speed fiber connections are imperative. Second, we must look to rural electrification as a model, and fund local municipalities to develop the infrastructure, and provide the services. Lastly, local governments should be empowered to step up as lead partners with the federal government to formulate and execute upon strategies that achieve broad-based access to high-speed services.

When high-speed connectivity is unavailable, too slow, or too expensive, it has a significant impact on the economic success and quality of life in these communities. As a result of the digital divide, rural communities are suffering, and struggle to tap basic resources including educational opportunities, medical care, economic and trade opportunities, and vital government services, including public safety.

We’re aware of the challenges involved in deploying adequate capacity across the broadband infrastructure in California’s rural communities. Rugged terrain, remote locations, and sparse populations are all factors that lead to increased deployment and maintenance costs. However, these challenges must be addressed in order to provide this fundamental socio-economic tool and resource to the residents within these communities. While technological advances such as 5G are beneficial to the overall industry, this type of innovation only serves to create a greater chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Priority should be focused on an equitable deployment of appropriate level services throughout the state, not on the next big thing for the fortunate few.

Community-driven broadband partnerships offer a solution. We can quickly resolve this problem by including local communities in the process of choosing the appropriate means to deliver the requisite broadband to ensure quality of life, business growth, and household capital formation. In partnership with the federal government, communities can choose the approach to delivering broadband best suited to their specific needs. Options could include innovative public-private partnerships, other government financing, or through the enforced requirement of leveraging infrastructure investments made with federal dollars by incumbent providers. The Federal Communications Commission has deployed and earmarked enormous amounts of capital to closing the urban-rural divide that exists with access to broadband. Despite these massive influxes of capital, too many rural communities remain without access.

It is imperative that ubiquitous middle-mile fiber optic cable technology is provided at the speed of commerce to allow small to medium-sized businesses to compete in the digital global marketplace, and attract economic development opportunities to California’s rural communities. Although we have made advancements in expanding broadband, there is more to do to ensure that universal access to broadband services is realized for all rural residents. Now is the time — we must allow local communities to develop high-speed solutions that fit their rural communities’ broadband infrastructure needs. Broadband is fundamentally necessary to a community’s economic health, quality of life, and opportunity at prosperity.

The source is HERE.

Comment:

The Federal funding to improve rural access to broadband is the Connect America II Fund, which is a 10-year program.  The telco 5G build-out is expected to take at least a decade. If the LEO satellite programs from SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb, LeoSat, and Telesat are successful, space-based broadband will become available in 2021 which is only two years away. By 2024 there will be multiple broadband satellite companies competing for rural communities business. These companies are planning to provide 4G and 5G backhaul services at a lower cost than fiber, which has to deal with “rugged terrain, remote locations, and sparse populations.”  One of the obstacles to satellite broadband is the current CPUC and CETF policies which discriminate against satellite services. These are policies that were put in place due to the low speeds, long latency and high cost of geo-satellite broadband services.  LEO satellites latency is on par with cable networks and shared fiber services, and current speeds are equal to cable internet and on long distances exceed fiber speeds.  These policies need to be revisited and adjusted to match future broadband services. More in this issue in future posts.

Satellite Internet Service Progress by Telesat

Telesat Test One
Telesat LEO-1, artist’s conception.
Credit SSTL

CIS 471 has the details:

In their quarterly report, Telesat mentioned progress in two, disparate markets. As I noted earlier, they have signed their first LEO customer — Omniaccess a provider of connectivity to the superyacht market. Telesat is a Canadian firm and the quarterly report also said Canada’s 2019 Federal budget included a commitment to using LEO satellite services to help bridge the digital divide. They will be serving Russian oligarchs and rural Canadians.

[. . .]

Telesat’s coolest development was the announcement that they had demonstrated 5G mobile backhaul. They collaborated with Vodaphone and the University of Surrey in a test of their experimental satellites and recorded round trip latency of 18-40 milliseconds. The demonstration supported video chatting, Web browsing and simultaneous streaming of up to 8K video. The team also transferred 4K video to the edge of the 5G network. SES is already providing mobile backhaul using their middle-earth orbit satellites and it seems that the new LEO constellations will be competing with them. This will be an important application for rural areas and developing nations.

Blue emphasis added.  This has huge potential for rural communities as 5G mini-towers need to be connected to a broadband connection, and satellites access will cost less than laying fiber to every rural mini-tower.  However, this backhaul will not support applications requiring low latency response times, such as self-driving vehicles. However, some 5G is better than no 5G.

 

Will Amazon’s Flywheel Consume the Rural Broadband Advantage?

What is the Amazon Flywheel? It is best described in a Bloomberg article examining Amazon’s Market Reach.

As Amazon grew, the company adopted a business school concept called the flywheel, loosely defined as a sort of self-reinforcing loop. Where possible, projects were to be structured to bolster other initiatives underway at the company.

Here is an example of the flywheel in action:

By the time Amazon began breaking out the revenue of Amazon Web Services in 2015, the cloud-computing unit had reshaped how businesses used technology. It was also Amazon’s biggest money maker, churning out billions of dollars a year in profit that the company could put to work investing in new services and expansion of its core retail business. Once again, the flywheel in action.

With the announcement that Amazon will be launching 3,236 low earth orbiting satellites to provide broadband internet services from space the potential competitors SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat and LeoSat took notice. The most vocal was Elon Musk who claimed Amazon was copying SpaceX.

Perhaps those that Amazon’s broadband network will impact the most, the mom and pop stores across the nation, may not have given the announcement a passing thought.

While the Amazon LEO satellites will be providing high-speed internet access to 14 million rural US citizens who do not have access now, they will also be providing these rural consumers access to Amazon’s e-commerce kingdom. While Amazon can offer cloud services to small business in rural communities at the same time, they could be stealing those small business customers with their lower cost e-commerce options.

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According to the Foundation for Rural Service study current rural broadband users account for $1.4 Trillion in an online transaction, 14% of all internet driven transition, or 7% of GDP. However, they’re 19 million users that do not have Internet access or have access too slow for effective e-commerce. Amazons LEO network will provide easy access to these unserved broadband customers and at the same time adding them to the Amazon e-commerce customer base. The flywheel in action.

While SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat, and LeoSat are planning to provide broadband services, Amazon will be providing broadband service, but the primary goal is the creation of marketing and sales infrastructure, which is a far different business model than the service based competition.  The depth of Amazon’s offerings gives them an advantage.

The problem remains, will Amazon’s space-based broadband access be an advantage or detriments to rural communities? Given Amazon’s market penetration so far, it appears that a ubiquitous internet will transform communities, there will be more information based businesses and fewer street side shops selling commodities that Amazon can deliver for less.

Your thoughts?

GeekWire has Some Amazon Broadband Insight

If Project Kuiper comes to fruition, would Amazon, SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat and other broadband players be chasing after the same customers in remote or underdeveloped regions of the world? Or would there be market segmentation?

You could argue that the biggest users of Amazon’s satellites will be … Amazon and its customers.

For example, Prime Video could offer streaming services worldwide via satellite (which could provide an edge over Netflix). The ability to provide cloud computing services to virtually anywhere in the world would be an attractive differentiator for Amazon Web Services (which already has a cloud-based platform for satellite management known as AWS Ground Station). And a global data network would make it a lot easier for Amazon to manage drones, robotic ground vehicles and all the other next-generation delivery channels it’s developing.

When you add the potential for taking orders and serving ads via a ubiquitous internet service, Project Kuiper looks less like a far-out fantasy and more like the final frontier for commerce. Amazon isn’t posting any job openings for satellite service marketers yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time.

Full Article is HERE. This is another opportunity for Amazon to change the business model once again. Another delivery systems totally under their control.  This is more than just a broadband delivery system.  Another Amazon Game Changer!  Stay Tuned!

 

Telesat LEO—The why’s and wherefore’s

Telesat Test One

Satellite Magazine has the full details HERE, below is a summary of the services that Telesat a Canadian satellite operator plans to provide with a fleet of 117 LEO satellites starting in 2020.

Mobility: Targeting vessels on the ocean and aircraft flying polar routes concentrating capacity into areas of highest demand, such as major airports and seaports.

Carrier Backhaul and Enterprise Connectivity: Backhaul for 4G/5G networks with a focus on rural institutions such as schools and hospitals, plus remote enterprises, mines, and factories providing high-speed connectivity just like urban entities.

 Government and Defense: The government is exploring ways to leverage the advantages of next-generation broadband LEO mega constellations, especially the low latency and high resiliency that results from their full global, pole-to-pole coverage for military programs including unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as other sovereign applications diplomatic communications, border control, and protection are  listed in the article.

The focus is not on supplying individual users broadband services but institutional organizations that can server their members.   

Rural California Should Not Fret Over 5G and Start Looking for LEO Satellites

By Russ Steele

Ever wonder what the LTE in 4G LTE stood for? I always thought that LTE was the abbreviation for 4G light. In one sense it is as 4G LTE does not meet the minimum ITE standard for 4G, so it was designated 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE). Almost 4G but not quite. It does not matter what LTE stands for in those communities that do not have any 4G LTE networks by any of the four telco providers.

As you can see on the map below, there are large swaths of California census blocks which do not have a single provider of 4G LTE. FCC has designated these rural blue areas eligible for subsidies, under the Mobility Fund Phase II Program.

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Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) will make up to $4.53 billion in support available over 10 years to primarily rural areas that lack unsubsidized 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service. MF-II is critically important to supporting mobile voice and broadband coverage, incentivizing the deployment of mobile wireless service through a reverse auction, and ensuring that 4G LTE service is preserved and advanced in those areas of the country that lack unsubsidized service.

Under this schedule, it could be another 10 years before some communities final get 4G LTE service, if at all. While the Federal Government is subsidizing the build-out, one of the four telcos has to decide to bid for the subsidy and then take the risk they can build a sustainable system, without additional subsidies.

The 5G rollout is expected to follow a similar path as 4G in the evolution from 3G. The 4G rollout started in the dense urban cities and then moved to the transportation corridors and then to the suburbs and final into some rural areas with populations density was high enough to support the telco ROI calculations. AT&T started offering 4G LTE in 2011, Verizon in 2010, Sprint in 2012 and T-Mobile in 2013. Eight years later many communities still do not have reliable 4G LTE coverage.

After eight years there are still rural communities with 3G service or no broadband service at all. It is highly likely that these rural communities will ever see 5G.

Digital Trends:

The ITU IMT-2020 specification requires 5G to feature peak speeds of 20Gbps, but as we saw from 4G LTE, we can realistically expect those sorts of speeds 10 years from now. Even then, those speeds are only expected when using short-range mmWave spectrum, not longer range sub-6GHz spectrum. That means as per usual, rural areas won’t feel the benefit for a while, if at all. For now, consumers living in urban areas should expect speeds in line with LTE Advanced (or, one might say, true 4G) that will incrementally improve each year.

For rural communities that do not have 4G LTE, it will be hard to benefit from an upgrade to full 4G which will take place over the next ten years. What are rural communities to do in the interim? Let’s look at some other timelines, the LEO satellite timelines.

Just last week (02-27-2019) OneWeb launched the first six of a 600 Satellite constellation, and under the FCC agreement must have all satellites launched in six years.

SpaceX will start launching phase one satellites in late 2019 with a full constellation of 4,425 by 2024. The SpaceX LEO constellations are expected to provide G5 level speeds at fiber network latency of 25-35ms.

Telesat, which operates a large fleet of geo sync statutes announced a smaller 117 satellite LEO constellation and plans to deliver the first service in 2021.

Given these timelines, if they hold up, rural communities could have access to space-based broadband long before some will see 4G LTE or 5G. It is time they stop fretting over when will they get terrestrial 5G and start thinking about how they can benefit from space-based broadband access.  Go LEO Satellites

OneWeb-constellation-in-orbit-879x485