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dragon

13,000 Students need a LTE EBS network

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This post is going to be long because I'm going to ramble. I'm excited to have found you.

I'm a network engineer for a large school district and I have a slice of Band 41 EBS I'm itching to use to help students.

But I need some help. I stumbled across your equipment spotting section trying to dig up some base station models I could buy and you all look like the experts.

Let me give you some background on what I have and am trying to do.

We are a school district with over over 16,000 students and according to our 80% E-Rate status almost 13,000 of them are economically disadvantaged. And while we support a large enough population to be one in the states top 1% of largest school districts, we are no where near a major city, and internet access for homes and businesses are held hostage to high rates from the single service provider monopoly. High prices and being poor don't mix and many of kids don't have internet at home, only have it their cell if they can afford one, or worse they do have it out of necessity but they eat a few less meals. That is not an exaggeration. E-rate is based on free and reduced lunch applications and so that school breakfast and lunch in a cafeteria are the only meals that many of our students get.

So I've been tasked trying to deliver internet over EBS to mobile buses, community centers, rural locations, and even students' homes in an effort to further support our students and a growing need for a 1 to 1 initiative. 

We hold one channel of EBS, 16+6 Mhz, and service students in 2/3 of the county while our twin sister city services the other 1/3 and holds an adjacent EBS channel. There is the possibility we could share. Our WiMAX install is old and broken, but we have a few towers here and there. We have about 25 sites with 10gb owned fiber to each one. Most of city  only see about 90ft of elevation change from end to end. 

I'm ready to budget out a PoC phase of a single tower where my main wimax install was. I have 5,700 students within 2 miles of this tower.

 

I have some questions:

So the most important question is can I get my hands on any equipment that Sprint uses for Band 41? I've heard from another school district with an EBS deployment Sprint also uses Airspan Networks Harmony devices as well.

From what I can tell Sprint uses band 41 for dense metro areas so lots of little stations on top of (relatively) short towers or building rooftops to cover an area. Is this correct?

So I'm no expert on cellular technology but I am on wifi and figure 2.5ghz doesn't behave too differently from 2.4 or 5ghz and from what I've researched it's not good at long distance or object penetration. Can I expect to have 1-2 miles of decent object/foliage penetration with a tall enough tower? Do I need to get denser with more deployments?

I'll likely have more questions later. Thanks.
 

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Yes! I love the treasures we have on this site. Expanding access is one of the many reasons I am intrigued by cellular. As an enthusiast and certified monopoly cable hater, we have cellular backhaul at our home we built ourselves. 

Will check in later after work w more. You have a project on your hands a few of us dream about fren.

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Is there Sprint service in your area?  If so, you might be able to cut a deal with them to lease your EBS in exchange for free access for your students (at least the poorest).  Band 41 LTE can cover large distances.  WiMAX is more like Wi-Fi with each sector on a different frequency.   What Band 41 do your Chromebooks support or are they WiFi only?

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While Sprint is in the area we will not be leasing out our frequency. There are a number of reasons including those leases are usually for 30 years, the FCC is about to make changes to EBS, and our neighboring school district and university do not lease theirs. 

I have heard 2.5ghz is only good to 15km.

Only part of my plan involves LTE enabled devices as a majority of my devices including another 10,000 or so macs and PCs do not have LTE capabilities. A majority of my plans involve CPEs on buses or community centers relaying to cloud controlled APs.

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15km or 9 miles is outside line of site best case.

Airspan is sprints small cell with a range of only like 1-1.5 miles. But they are small and can be on a telephone pole or school roofs. You would need a few of them. Nokia/ Samsung gear can go the distance needed but shadowing from buildings will be a problem. Probably best choice is to get a few airspan. I don't remember the ue limit for those but it would be something to ask airspan about. Airspan just recently bought a wisp manufacturer so they may have something to support wifi deployment.

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4 hours ago, dragon said:

While Sprint is in the area we will not be leasing out our frequency. There are a number of reasons including those leases are usually for 30 years, the FCC is about to make changes to EBS, and our neighboring school district and university do not lease theirs. 

I have heard 2.5ghz is only good to 15km.

Only part of my plan involves LTE enabled devices as a majority of my devices including another 10,000 or so macs and PCs do not have LTE capabilities. A majority of my plans involve CPEs on buses or community centers relaying to cloud controlled APs.

You'll need to reach out and negotiate an agreement with a LTE eNodeB provider (aforementioned -- Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, Airspan, etc) in order to create a LTE EPC, acquire licensed radio transmitters, and a deployment plan. 

Coverage is far superior to 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz due to significantly higher TX power, antennas, modulation, and just difference in elevation on the transmitters. Still you'll likely need a wide deployment using multiple backhauled eNodeB sectors at least for capacity and coverage reasons. 

https://www.airspan.com/education/

https://networks.nokia.com/solutions/private-lte

 

TBH reaching out to Sprint may be still your best option since they have the expertise and they're pretty much the biggest entity a lot of these vendors have agreements with. 

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If Sprint has Band 41 in your area (deployed or not) you could also possibly have a mutual leasing arrangement with them to make your spectrum contiguous.  Compared to 15Mhz, 20Mhz would be more useful and have slightly better building penetration and be less susceptible to interference.  

The FCC may address contiguous 2.5 spectrum -- or they may not. Initially the thought was they tabled this issue until after the mid-term election.  They may have tabled it until after a merger decision, which could be a year away based on recent mergers.

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Wouldn't it make sense to reach out to the folks that run the 1Million project at Sprint considering the circumstances, not to mention the level of complexity involved in deploying the network and its ecosystem.

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I'd also look into WISP vendors.  Lots of WISPS use 2.5GHz LTE for their network, the equipment does exist.  I'd imagine that there would be several available vendors.  However Bai Cells comes to mind.

Though if this will be roughly the prices to expect just for a base station ($7000) https://www.ispsupplies.com/Baicells-NOVAR9-402-B41, needing multiples per tower for all your towers. A cheaper 250mW unit is still almost $2000!  I'd look into the cost of deploying on several different unlicensed frequencies for WiFi. Stuff like Ubuiqiti gear is significantly cheaper and heavy used in the WISP area.  The cost of a high end antenna and basestation is the same price for an Antenna for this Baicells. $400~500.  With WiFi you have loads of options, cheap and flexible deployment options and capabilities, and if you want a mobile like experience in heavy trafficked areas you can still do that so long as you can get power to it.  Plus as fixed wireless, even 5GHz has some pretty solid ranges.  

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