How – and why – Redzone plans to switch from LTE to 5G for FWA | Light reading

Redzone Wireless, a stationary wireless Internet provider in Maine, is considering an upgrade to 5G as it ponders an expected incursion into its turf by T-Mobile.

Redzone founder and CEO Jim McKenna told Light Reading that he plans to make the company’s first 5G equipment purchases this quarter. Lui said he plans to test equipment from a variety of vendors and then eventually begin upgrading select Redzone broadcast sites from an LTE-powered fixed wireless service to one running the 5G standard.

“We’re very confident about that,” McKenna said.

McKenna (Source: Redzone. Used with permission)

(Source: Redzone. Used with permission)

Importantly, McKenna said Redzone, a privately held company with about 30 employees, owns up to 100MHz of 2.5GHz midband spectrum in nearly half of its service territory. You said an upgrade to 5G would give the company the ability to deploy advanced technologies like beamforming, Massive MIMO and carrier aggregation to offer fixed wireless access (FWA) services at speeds up to 500 Mbit/s.

Though McKenna declined to offer details, he estimated Redzone could cost up to $100,000 per cell tower to upgrade from LTE to 5G. You said the company has about 90 cell towers in its network, and about 25% of those sites generate enough revenue to warrant an immediate upgrade to 5G. Other sites can be updated as needed.

McKenna declined to say how many customers Redzone has, but said the operator has “thousands” of customers but fewer than 10,000 in all counties in Maine. She added that the operator founded in 2006 has seen its revenue grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22% since 2015.

Enemies, Enemies and Agreements

“We expect them to hit us like a freight train,” T-Mobile’s McKenna said. He said T-Mobile doesn’t have much 2.5GHz midband spectrum for 5G in Redzone’s coverage area mainly because Redzone owns much of it, but T-Mobile bought additional 2.5GHz stakes in the Maine during a recent FCC spectrum auction. McKenna said he expects T-Mobile to use those auction winnings to expand into the Redzone’s coverage area in the future.

(Source: Robert K. Chin - Showcases/Alamy Stock Photo)

That, he said, is part of what’s driving Redzone to invest in an upgrade from LTE to 5G.

Notably, however, McKenna said Redzone hopes to leverage T-Mobile’s investments in 5G for its own move to network technology. She said T-Mobile’s massive nationwide 5G upgrade program has helped develop an ecosystem of equipment around the 2.5GHz band, and said Redzone hopes to tap into that ecosystem for its own 5G upgrade. . Nokia and Ericsson are T-Mobile’s main 5G equipment suppliers.

Finally, McKenna said Redzone is also inking wholesale FWA deals involving its 2.5GHz spectrum with several other unnamed wireless network operators. Specifically, you said that Redzone has already signed a wholesale data deal with one of the “major” US carriers and expects to sign a second carrier deal by the end of Q3. You said the deals will allow Redzone to expand its FWA service area beyond the boundaries of its licensed 2.5GHz spectrum holdings. And the deals are mutual, she said, as Redzone’s wholesale partners will be able to access the company’s licensed 2.5GHz network to expand into Maine.

A story of things to come

Redzone is one of hundreds of small, landline wireless Internet service providers across the country. According to data from the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), these providers collectively have about 8 million customers in the United States.

But the space has caught fire recently thanks to the entry of T-Mobile and Verizon. Thanks to 5G networks running in the midband spectrum, Verizon and T-Mobile collectively captured virtually all of the growth in the U.S. broadband market over the past year. And some financial analysts don’t expect that to change much in 2023. Partly as a result, the nation’s cable companies, long the dominant force in the U.S. broadband market, have experienced a historic slowdown in their core businesses.

For its part, Redzone continues to focus solely on fixed wireless rather than branching out into fiber like Rise Broadband and other FWA players. The company’s operations have spanned spectrum bands including 5.8GHz, 11GHz, 24GHz and 60GHz through equipment such as Telrad, Ubiquity, Rukus, Dragonwave, Sikl and Nokia.

(Redzone also made an early foray into the 5G branding game with its “5Gx” branding for proprietary multi-spectrum, carrier aggregation, and MIMO-capable fixed wireless.)

But in recent months, Redzone has been adopting equipment from vendor Tarana for its unlicensed 3.5GHz CBRS operations. McKenna said Redzone has been using Tarana equipment for about two years and currently has “hundreds” of customers on about 15 cell towers. “I am very impressed with the capability of the technology, its aggregate capacity and its coverage with CBRS,” she said.

However, McKenna noted that the Tarana system is affected about once a quarter by nearby US military operations in the CBRS band. That’s not necessarily a surprise: The CBRS band operates in a unique spectrum sharing scenario that allows commercial operations to use spectrum when it’s not needed by Navy vessels and other Department of Defense operations. But McKenna said Redzone expected such operations that would impact its customers’ services to occur only once a year rather than once a quarter.

The wider market

Of course, T-Mobile’s probable foray into the Redzone coverage area isn’t the only competitive factor affecting the future prospects of the FWA provider. McKenna said Charter Communications is Maine’s largest cable operator, while Consolidated Communications’ new Fidium brand has made inroads into the fiber sector. She said Charter has been working to develop a moat around its customers by offering discounts and mobile services. However, she said that most of Redzone’s customers come from Charter as they look for cheaper internet services.

“What we’re seeing, from a consumer perspective, is interest in more convenience and choice over speed and availability,” McKenna said, noting that one of Redzone’s most popular offerings is a $30 per month plan. month with 50 Mbit/s speed for the elderly .

Regardless, Charter is “a formidable competitor,” he said.

The argument is noteworthy, considering that the US government is preparing to allocate more than 40 billion dollars across the country to support the construction of broadband networks in rural areas. Maine will receive approximately $272 million of that amount. But Redzone may not be able to tap into those subsidies due to regulators’ preference for fiber networks.

That’s a shame, McKenna said, because fixed wireless services can be affordable, reliable and profitable with relatively few customers. “I can do well with 10% market share,” she said. Fiber providers, on the other hand, often need to acquire up to 50% of customers in their coverage areas to be profitable. It might be difficult in rural areas.

“Most people just want a Toyota,” explained McKenna, rather than a Ferrari. That’s because Toyota’s fixed wireless solutions from the broadband world are affordable and reliable.

“Fixed wireless fits right in,” he said.

Related posts:

Mike Dano, editorial director, 5G and mobile strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

#Redzone #plans #switch #LTE #FWA #Light #reading
Image Source :

Leave a Comment