RDOF – Opportunity Missed Is Opportunity Lost

With close to 400 bidders in the RDOF auction, we will see not only new technology coming out, but we also have a new spectrum to go with it. Companies are bound to have channel sizes and a quiet portion of the spectrum to achieve the desired speeds quickly.

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction is a critical step in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ‘s efforts to close the digital divide across the United States.

The FCC established the RDOF, which will provide up to $20.4 billion to connect millions of rural homes and small businesses to high-speed broadband networks. The RDOF framework builds upon the success of the 2018 Connect America fund phase two auction.

Most of the companies have gone through the process and figured out what kinds of requirements the FCC will have for measuring and ensuring that companies are meeting the speed goals necessary to drive RDOF offerings. Some of the firms dropped, saying that this is pretty hard to do. It is hard to hit the speeds, and it’s hard to keep the speeds up. And this is an end-to-end thing. It is not just the speed to the customer. But is there enough backhaul at a site?

Companies now believe that they can win the auction by committing to higher speeds than others, because they get better bidding credits in the process.

But the critical factor here is that more people will bid gigabit than ever because that’s the only way they can get their leg up in the bid to win. So, the big thing in all of the preparatory architectural discussions for RDOF between companies and suppliers is, what do you have that can get me a gigabit? And how am I going to make this work? What kind of oversubscription do I need to be able to prove Speed tests, but how many people are on a base station? And what variety of capacities at peak? There was a lot more work this time around that was not in play in CAF Two. Firms are at that generational point where what kinds of technology are there that can do gigabit?

And actually, the answer to that right now is nothing. There is almost nothing that can get the job done. But looking to a bright future, 2021 already was on track for the gigabit tiers technologically. And it’s no coincidence that people are, as a result of this, building another roadmap.

They are looking at the timeline and saying, okay, probably the second half of 2021 is the earliest point when you start to see funds get put to use. And that’s in line now with going into early 2022. And all of this technology should be available to hit those speeds. Getting 100 megabit to these places is no longer an issue. That’s easy. Getting to a gigabit is a real challenge here.

In all, there are close to 400 bidders.  That means what we will be seeing is not only new technology coming out, but we also have a new spectrum to go with it. Companies are bound to have channel sizes and a quiet portion of the spectrum to achieve those kinds of speeds quickly.

Clients are already using 1.75 gigabits, and if the requirement shoots up to 3.5, then one must be using the six gigahertz spectrum to handle a large portion of customers, primarily in line of sight. And then you’ve got to be able to bring to bear other spectrum and other tools when you have customers houses that are behind the trees that don’t get or can’t see the tower.

But generally speaking, that 3.5 gigahertz band, especially the LTE 5g technologies, is much better at making it through trees in particular. So we believe that it’s going to be this mix of getting as many customers covered as possible with the high capacity six Ghz than five Ghz technology. Use that cellular spectrum of 3.5 bands for knocking off the customers that need the most help from a signal level perspective because of trees and other occlusions that might happen. So that’s the broad guidance. We have to give people what we know. We can’t cure cancer with one answer here, unfortunately. But we do have the technologies that can solve most of the problems.

Techwave & supporting RDOF

Techwave’s role in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction is to provide a clear engineering field and design path throughout the deployment of rural networks backed by technology-enabled competencies. We provide efficient and high-quality Field Surveying with best-practice Engineering Design, resulting in significant improvements in time and cost savings through quality enhancements.

Techwave has 16 years of experience with deep domain expertise in delivering Engineering services for fixed and wireless network services. Our FTTx Engineering capabilities, geospatial and telecom domain expertise, and on-shore and offshore global delivery models help customers rapidly build next-gen networks. By delivering cost optimization in FTTx network planning and roll-out, we can assist and add value where your market demands.

Techwave RDOF Services

Fielding / Design Engineering / Drafting

  • Field & Pole survey and audits
  • Plan and Design: Greenfield / Brownfield for FTTx and HFC networks
  • MDU/ SFU/ MTU Design Engineering
  • As-builts/ Records
  • GIS Data translation, migration, conflation and audit
  • Field dispatch management
  • Feasibility / Serviceability check