Nokia and NewCore build private wireless networks for 3 tribes

The new private network for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North and South Dakota will integrate with an existing macro network.

Nokia and NewCore Wireless are working with three U.S. tribes to build private wireless networks on their tribal lands, using educational broadband service (EBS) spectrum.

The tribes are located in the Dakotas, in Oklahoma and in California.

NewCore Wireless is a Minnesota-based company that “provides an aggregation point of small carriers,” said Albert Kangas, general manager and COO at NewCore. “Our focus on the tribal project was more on consulting, design and choosing the right vendor,” he said.

According to Kangas the new private network for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North and South Dakota will integrate with an existing macro network the tribe already operates, using 15 towers. The macro network “looks like a cell network that a Tier 1 would deploy, covering almost the entire Standing Rock, which is huge,” said Kangas. “It’s an independent network. This is fully deployed and operational.”

The macro network uses 1900 MHz PCS spectrum for 3G and 700 MHz for a partial LTE overlay.

Kangas said, “With Covid-19 and the impact of that and students having to learn from home, the tribe wanted a private network for educational purposes.

Nokia provided its Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC) solution for a 4G core to provide the tribe with a private LTE network. The core can be upgraded to 5G via a software update. Nokia's NDAC software sits in a data center in Minnesota. Fiber-based transport leased from various local phone companies connects the data center to the Standing Rock network.

Ed Cholerton, Nokia’s senior vice president of customer experience for the North America Market, said Nokia's NDAC for private LTE and 5G was originally planned “for industries that need an all-in-one turnkey solution.” But it’s also well-suited for the tribal wireless deployments. “It allows people to deploy small systems easily without a giant amount of technical expertise,” said Cholerton. “You still need radios, but it does allow modular, small scale deployments to go pretty quickly.”

Oklahoma and California

Nokia and NewCore Wireless are also helping tribes in Oklahoma and California build private wireless networks, using EBS spectrum.

Reggie Wassana, governor for the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in Oklahoma said: “The CARES Act that provided money directly to the tribes made it possible for us to establish three separate cellular towers in the region. It has not only allowed us to provide internet to the tribal emergency programs, but also to the tribal citizens within our service area.”  

And a tribe in California also plans to build three towers and use Nokia and NewCore to build a private wireless network, using EBS spectrum.

EBS spectrum

EBS spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band has been available for years for use by educational institutions. But in 2019 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determined that a lot of the spectrum wasn’t being widely used for its intended purpose and that the valuable mid-band spectrum could be better used elsewhere. The FCC decided to put unused EBS spectrum up for auction. But prior to auction, it gave Tribal Nations a priority window to obtain unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum for use in their communities.

RELATED: Valuable mid-band 2.5 GHz licenses will be unique for each licensee

The FCC received about 400 applications for the spectrum from Native American tribes and awarded licenses to them, covering more than 12,000 square miles and including more than 30,000 tribal members.

The tribes do have build-out requirements for the use of the spectrum.

RELATED: FCC starts moving on unique 2.5 GHz auction, license areas

The remaining 2.5 GHz spectrum will go up for auction, potentially later this year.