California-based fixed wireless provider details plans for extending rural broadband access into underserved and unserved markets
GeoLinks, a California-based rural broadband provider, walked away from the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund auction with $87.3 million to expand its coverage area in its home state and next door in Nevada. GeoLinks was the biggest winner in California and the fifth biggest in the country.
The award is part of the FCC’s funding of $1.488 billion over 10 years to 103 service providers taking on the mandate to connected an additional 713,176 homes and business in 45 states. Per the terms of the funding, service providers receiving aid have to reach 40% of locations in a state within three years of funding authorization and construction must increase 20% each year with the goal of finishing in year six.
Skyler Ditchfield, CEO of GeoLinks, told RCR Wireless News via email that the company is “very pleased with the win. It really solidifies our business plans to continue to densify California. California is such a big state, people don’t realize how much of it is severely lacking broadband access. That includes major anchor institutions like libraries, schools, healthcare, first responder locations and more. These places are beyond the reach of most existing networks and rely on very old, slow and expensive copper services if any.”
GeoLinks, as it builds out its network, will look for opportunities to rapidly deploy by making batch deals for infrastructure siting with these anchor institutions. Ditchfield explained. He also noted the need to invest in long distance backhaul.
“We have backbone network running near some of these areas and in some areas we are not close at all…These areas are so remote the nearest fiber junctions are 100-plus miles away. So we will be building long backhauls via multi-gigabit fixed wireless. There isn’t anything in place in these areas for distribution so nearly 100% of the work will be greenfield.”
On the batch deals with anchor institutions, Ditchfield said, “We are hoping for a warm reception from them and residents alike as the more private land we can get quick and easy access to the faster we can deploy and at higher potential speeds of access. The operational costs over time of these networks are one of the big issues in these rural areas because the homes are so few and far between. This is where we really hope to find good allies in the land owners that want to work with us for quick and easy deployments of network backbone infrastructure.”
This round of funding is just one prong of the FCC’s rural broadband and cellular strategy. The Mobility Fund II auction is designed to allocated $4.53 billion to expand LTE coverage in rural markets and the Connect America Fund will shell out $9 billion over six years for rural buildout in areas served by major carriers.