I'm going to start a new catch phrase: broadband stimulus ready. That is the trend I'm beginning to see as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prepare to dole out some $7 billion in broadband stimulus money. Every player in the wireless broadband space, it seems, is issuing a press release touting their wares as "broadband stimulus ready."
To wit: This week, Berkeley Varitronics Systems, EDX Wireless, DoceoTech and EGS Technologies announced their collaboration to develop what they call a comprehensive integrated package to help rural broadband buildout under the stimulus package. The package includes a streamlined procurement of wireless propagation test equipment, RF planning tools, geodata tools, and tailored technical training for several broadband technologies. These include WiFi, WiMAX and LTE. The companies say these tools will offer more definitive data on the underserved areas they are proposing to cover along with the coverage available after deployment. I like how their press release stresses that their package is American made.
Alan Solheim, vice president of product management with backhaul provider DragonWave, which has been doing rural projects for some time, is suddenly seeing companies hitting up DragonWave for press releases touting equipment that is stimulus ready. DragonWave recently deployed a wireless native Ethernet backhaul solution for the South Georgia Regional Information Technology Authority (SGRITA) to provide a broadband network throughout five rural counties in South Georgia to tie public schools and other groups together.
I'm not saying any of this is wrong. In fact, it's refreshing to know there are competitive options for those entities looking to buildout broadband in underserved areas. Back in the late 1990s, I remember covering a number of companies striving to come to market with fixed broadband wireless with the goal of connecting rural areas. The economies of scale just weren't there.
Today, fixed WiMAX is covering households on a Navajo reservation in northern New Mexico. CenturyTel is going to deploy LTE to target rural broadband customers. A plethora of rural communities have deployed WiFi. And broadband stimulus money may be just what the industry needs to continue to innovate and find cost effective solutions not only for underserved areas but across the country.--Lynnette