The FCC is continuing to push for expanded broadband coverage in remote and rural areas as part of its Connect America Fund (CAF) program. CAF provides billions of dollars of funding to carriers to support their delivery of 10 Mbps download with 1 Mbps upload (10/1 Mbps) speeds to bridge the digital divide. But as an executive at a rural carrier that I talked to pointed out, “How do you deliver affordable and reliable broadband to a customer who lives in a canyon, miles from your nearest cabinet, yet you are obligated to serve?” Though not the typical scenario, this is the conundrum that rural carriers have with expanding broadband coverage – ultra-long distances, customers that number in the single digits per square mile and a difficult terrain that makes new network buildouts difficult and economically unviable.

Arlynn Wilson of ADTRAN, participated in USTelecoms’ recent webinar, “Extending Broadband to America’s Underserved,” pointed out that fiber is the ideal option for broadband – but very expensive for low customer count. Wilson recommended looking at a broadband toolkit that includes copper-based ADSL2 and VDSL2 as well as fixed-wireless access (FWA) technologies that can be used to more economically deliver broadband coverage to lower-density, far-flung areas. The point should be made that “broadband” here means the 2015 FCC broadband definition of 25/1Mbps not the minimum CAF-funded rate of 10/1Mbps. Wilson shared several points worth noting:

  • Using existing copper and sealed VDSL2 DSLAMs in a multi-loop DMT mid-node architecture to deliver 25/3Mbps broadband over three miles from a fiber point of presence can save millions of dollars in optical distribution costs.
  • Turning the right knobs and dials such as using upstream Impulse Noise Protection (IMP) or Upstream Power Backoff (UPBO) to improve line stability for long loop lengths.
  • Using span/line power for remote DSLAMs to avoid utility construction costs.
  • Considering sub-6GHz FWA for CAF applications while using higher-capacity millimeter wave or higher frequency fixed-wireless options for cabinet or cell- site backhaul.

I’d encourage you to check to out Wilson’s webinar in its entirety on USTelecom’s Events and Education page.