Why we need to rethink education in the artificial intelligence age

Some Brookings Institute insight into the future of US education with the recognition that our education system is not meeting the STEM challenge, nor are our communications networks, especial in rural areas and low-income neighborhoods meeting the challenge. Without Government initiatives, the US is falling behind and our global leadership is at stake.

Read the whole article HERE.

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Sacramento 5G Insights

by Russ Steele

Verizon cut a deal with the City of Sacramento to bring 5G to the community using city infrastructure, such as light poles to attach and power 28GHz small cell antennas.   

In December and January, from dawn until dusk for eight days, Earl Lum of EJL Wireless Research drove around Sacramento surveying the Verizon 5G network. In a recent article, lightreading.com shared some of Lum’s insights.

Below are three observations Lum made while surveying what he estimated were 99% of Verizon’s 5GTF cell sites across Sacramento (the analyst is selling a complete report of his work on his website).

1 – Verizon’s 5G Home service covers around 10% of Sacramento.

“It’s pretty sparse,” Lum concluded of the network’s coverage, adding that he counted “several hundred” 5G sites.

This doesn’t come as a total surprise. After all, Verizon’s network is exclusively using the operator’s 28GHz spectrum, which is ideal for carrying huge amounts of data but not for covering large geographic areas. Verizon has said 28GHz signals can travel around 1,000 feet, but Lum said he mostly calculated signals traveling about 500 feet, based on the locations of the 28GHz transmitters and potential customers’ addresses (Verizon, for its part, boasts of a further reach in some cases, as do some other surveys of Verizon’s 5G network).

“It’s not 600MHz,” Lum noted, pointing to the kind of low-band spectrum that T-Mobile plans to use for its 5G deployment. Such low-band spectrum can cover far more geographic territory than millimeter-wave spectrum like 28GHz.

2 – All of Verizon’s 5G transmitters were attached to streetlights.

While this might not seem like a big deal, it kind of is. Lum explained that all of Verizon’s 5GTF transmission radios were attached to the tops of streetlights and not to any other structures, like traffic signals or rooftops, possibly because Verizon only has permission from the city to use streetlights (Verizon inked a public-private partnership with Sacramento in 2017).

This situation reflects the fact that small wireless transmitters — generally referred to as small cells — have been difficult for operators to deploy in part because they typically sit on city-owned infrastructure. And, as anyone who has dealt with local regulators knows, getting a city’s permission to make changes to city-owned stuff is challenging at best. For example, tower company Crown Castle typically allocates a full two years to get local approvals for small cell installations.

Another, and perhaps more important, possible takeaway from Lum’s work is that streetlights probably aren’t the best locations for a 28GHz network that provides mobility services. Lum explained that, to create an efficient grid of coverage for cars, dog walkers and others, operators likely would want to install their equipment on top of traffic signals at intersections, not on streetlights in the middle of a neighborhood.

“You don’t need a site in the middle [of a street, like a streetlight], you just need them on the bookends, pointing at each other,” Lum said. “At some point you’re going to have to go to the corners” for a millimeter-wave mobile network.

3 – Most sites only had one 5G antenna.

Lum said that most of the streetlights with Verizon’s equipment only had one antenna, and none of them had equipment for 4G LTE. Lum explained that this is noteworthy because it likely indicates Verizon is only blasting 5G service from that streetlight toward a specific set of customers.

Why? Well, most modern cellular antennas have a 90-degree or 120-degree field of coverage. Meaning, if you want to cover everything around a tower site, you need to install three or four different antennas, each covering a different part of the circle. Since most of Verizon’s sites only had one antenna, that means the company is blasting its signal toward a specific area or group of buildings, rather than everything around that site.

Lum said he saw a few sites with two antennas, but none with more than that.

Part of the issue, Lum said, may be due to the sheer weight a streetlight can handle. After all, Verizon and the city of Sacramento probably don’t want streetlights falling over because they’re too top-heavy with 5G equipment.

Antenna placement brings up an interesting point.  There are four mobile phone companies, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile which are planning to provide 5G services. All are planning to offer mobile services, some also fixed wireless services.  If an antenna is required every 500-1000 feet for mobile services in the mmWave spectrum, where are the city’s going to find places for all the antennas?  If a light pole cannot handle a full complement of 360-degree antenna coverage due to the weight for one company, how are four companies all going use the strategically located light poles? If as Lum states the ideal antenna location is at intersections, will the stop light standards be strong enough for four companies to install full complement 5G antennas?

A city needs to have at least two 5G providers to provide some pricing competition, can the light standards hold multiple piazza box antenna from at least two providers?  How will the standard hold up in high wind areas?  Those flat antenna can provide significant wind resistance, for an arm only engineering to hold a street light. 

Tower company Crown Castle has made a significant bet on small cells, and has deployed thousands of the gadgets in recent years. During the company’s most recent quarterly earnings conference call with investors, Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown said that the company typically designs its deployments to account for two small cells per mile — but he said in dense urban areas that count can increase to six or ten small cells per mile, or roughly one every 500 feet.

To quote Lum, “you’re talking about a crapload of poles.”

Another insight was the length of time it takes to permit a small cell. One company installing small cell towns expects the process to take two years.

Crown Castle typically allocates a full two years to get local approvals for small cell installations.

Unless the Federal Government takes some action to accelerate local approvals, it will be a long time before some neighborhoods see 5G is they ever see it at all. 

FCC Quibbles At Senate 5G Hearing

— Amid broader national security fears surrounding Chinese telecom giants, various senators also singled out the FCC with gripes during Senate Commerce’s hearing on 5G wireless on Wednesday. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) called the agency too “chicken to do contribution reform” and force more people to pay into its telecom subsidy fund — currently only supported by landline customers. “It’s a shrinking pie,” Schatz said. “We want to win every race but don’t admit that this takes resources.”

— And Democrats weren’t the only ones with gripes with the agency. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) both raised concerns about the FCC’s maps of nationwide broadband availability, widely derided as inaccurate. “NTIA needs to take over this mapping responsibility and clean it up,” Blackburn said.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Today: Senate Commerce Committee Focus on 5G

— Senate Commerce Committee members will question wireless industry executives about the state of next-generation wireless. Here are some things to keep in mind as the hearing gets underway:

— Will Congress legislate? Last year, Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tussled with city governments over their STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, S. 3157 (115) , aimed at easing local restrictions on 5G equipment. Thune said Tuesday he would welcome “a chance to drop that bill again” and said he’s talking with Schatz about options for a reintroduction. “Obviously some of the steps that are being taken by the FCC are helping clear the path for buildout and for investment and we’d hope to see that continue,” he said. Schatz, however, said he’s undecided on bringing back the measure.

— National security looms large: Expect the hearing to delve into U.S. concerns about Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE and whether they pose a threat to 5G networks. Lawmakers want to ensure “we’re winning the race to 5G and that we’re not aiding and abetting the Chinese in winning that race,” said Thune, adding, “They’ve obviously been attempting for some time now to steal our technology.” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) agreed. “A lot of focus will be on network security,” Gardner predicted. “How we build it into the system from ground up. In many cases, that’s the advantage of 5G, is how we can do this from ground up.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Can You Hear Me Now? In Quest for Federal Money, States Debunk Providers’ Coverage Claims

Cellphone companies often boast about how much of the country they cover. But with billions of federal dollars at stake to expand mobile broadband in rural America, state officials and other groups across 37 states say those claims aren’t always true.

The challenge is proving the carriers wrong.

In Vermont, that meant sending out a guy in a gray Toyota Prius to imitate the ubiquitous “can you hear me now?” question as he motored among small towns and dairy farms in search of a signal. Other states took similar steps, and their concerns have caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission, which has begun investigating the accuracy of the carriers’ claims.

The FCC got on to the question last year after it offered $4.5 billion through its Mobility Fund II reverse auction, meant to advance high-speed mobile broadband service in needy rural areas over the next decade. To determine which areas would be eligible for funding, the FCC required mobile providers to submit data showing where they provide 4G LTE coverage with download speeds of 5 megabits per second.

According to the carriers, several rural states, including Kansas and most of Vermont, New Hampshire and Mississippi, already had high-speed mobile broadband and didn’t need the FCC’s money.

Vermont begged to differ.

“When we first looked at the confidential coverage maps we called the FCC staff and said, ‘These maps are wrong,’” recalled Corey Chase, telecommunications infrastructure specialist with the Vermont Department of Public Service.

“The FCC said, ‘Well, if you don’t think they’re accurate, it would behoove you to do a challenge,’” he recalled. “It puts the onus on us.”

So, the department sent Chase on the road to challenge the carriers’ maps. With six phones in his passenger side seat running tests, and a seventh used as a map, Chase covered the Green Mountain State’s forested and at times rocky terrain to gather the data that would provide a foundation for an accurate statewide mobile broadband map.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

The CPUC has a mobile coverage data collection plan call CalSPEED. More Details HERE.

 

Broadband in Trump SOTU Message?

Count broadband infrastructure as one dark horse topic that could earn a mention. The president declined to broach the issue during last year’s speech, despite speculation he would. But according to POLITICO’s Anita Kumar , Trump “will renew his long-stalled push to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure during the speech” — a discussion that could resurface broadband considerations.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Are you going to watch?

January-February Digital Issue of Broadband Communities

The January-February digital issue of Broadband Communities is now available at

http://bbcmag.epubxp.com

Featured in the January-February issue of Broadband Communities:

  • Broadband in 2019: What’s hot and what’s not
  • New federal funding for rural broadband
  • Smart planning for smart communities
  • Building fiber faster with a digital construction solution
    And much more …

This issue has some good information and advice for rural communities, especially the development of a vision.

If you do not know where you are going, you cannot get there from here.