Nokia is working with US operator NewCore Wireless to enable next-generation private wireless connectivity using the Tribal Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum, in a move they say will empower rural, unserved and underserved Native American communities throughout the US.
The programme will use up to 117MHz of the Tribal EBS band, made available by US regulator the Federal Communications Commission, to serve tribal lands with a licence for broadband and wireless networking buildouts. The 400 Native American tribes awarded this spectrum in 2020 cover tens of thousands of square miles – often in remote or rural areas – and include millions of members.
The initial buildouts with NewCore and Nokia will focus on North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and California. The Native American communities involved include the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. The wireless spectrum will be used to deploy carrier-grade voice or broadband connectivity and the first wave of deployments will cover over 12,000 square miles and will provide broadband connectivity to more than 15,000 tribal members.
“This initiative with Nokia and NewCore will go a long way to levelling the technology playing field for the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” said John Pretty Bear, councilman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Cannonball District. “All members of our community, including our elders whom we pride ourselves in helping, will benefit from more affordable and accessible connectivity.
“This is critical for the wellbeing of our people, especially during the pandemic when information about mass testing or vaccinations needs to be shared in real time. From online schooling, to telehealth, to affordable mobility and cellular phones, we look forward to improving the quality of life for everyone in our community.”
Reggie Wassana, governor for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, added: “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 programmes, but also to the tribal citizens within our service area.”
The partnership will use the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) alongside NewCore’s integration and operational capabilities to bring an integrated network of 4.9G/LTE and 5G radio and core elements, capable of serving every state in the US. “In rural communities across the US, mobile coverage is already scarce – with few small carriers left dedicated to serving those regions specifically,” said Albert Kangas, COO and general manager at NewCore Wireless.
“Many of the Native American reservations tend to be in rural areas of the US. What we hope to bring to these communities through our work with Nokia is a renewed sense of control over their future, by building out next-generation broadband solutions to expand internet and mobile access for the most remote areas of North America.”
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Nokia is supplying 4.9G/LTE and 5G wireless technologies for rural broadband to allow for rapid and cost-effective wireless connectivity across large areas and provide the scope for multiple home and business connections from a single base station.
The private wireless system is based on 4.9G/LTE technology, and is regarded as being able to open the door to services such as high-speed internet to the home or business up to 1Gbps, mobile phone options where cellular coverage is not available or educational enhancements such as distance learning.
The 2.5GHz band of spectrum offered by the Tribal EBS programme is mature and can be found in most mobile phones, telephone switching equipment and add-on devices in the market today. Because current networks are already designed for this spectrum, it will enable new carriers to deploy services immediately using already available hardware.
Being able to access more than 100MHz of that spectrum is well suited for 4G, said the partners, and a viable transition into 5G when communities are ready.
“Millions of Americans lack basic broadband connectivity – particularly rural and tribal communities,” said Raghav Sahgal, president of cloud and network services at Nokia. “Making spectrum available to tribal nations brings these communities into the next generation of connectivity and allows them to take advantage of the benefits of broadband.
“By enabling access to 4G and 5G through Nokia’s technology and partnership with NewCore, each tribe can improve its quality of life with new economic opportunities, and educational and healthcare access.”