How Vegas built an LTE network in 45 days, and what it might do next
In December, at the height of the pandemic, the city of Las Vegas lit up a fixed wireless network covering 65 square miles and offering download speeds up to 35 Mbit/s. The city’s initial goal was to connect homebound students to their teachers in cases where they might not have a home Internet connection.
Now, as pandemic restrictions ease, the city and its network vendors are looking for ways to expand and improve the network in ways that would position Las Vegas as a “smart city.”
“The network serves a variety of business use cases outside of education and is not limited to serving just one specific use case,” explained Michael Sherwood, CIO of the City of Las Vegas, in written responses to questions from Light Reading. “The need for connectivity does not end, regardless if students are in the classroom or learning remotely. The ability to submit assignments, collaborate and access school resources creates a conducive environment for continued learning. The ability to research and expand educational opportunities to include local community colleges and universities will allow great flexibility and opportunity, and should increase the educational user base.”
Although Sherwood wouldn’t answer questions about the money it took to light up the network, a video produced by the network’s vendor indicates the state of Nevada used around $1 million in federal coronavirus stimulus money to construct the private wireless LTE network. Baicells, CommScope and Ubicquia supplied the hardware and Terranet Communications constructed the network in just over a month, in part by positioning around two dozen transmission towers atop city-owned infrastructure. The network runs in the CBRS 3.5GHz spectrum band, but Terranet CEO Bart van Aardenne did not answer questions about whether the city is using the licensed or unlicensed portion of the CBRS band.
The network, launched late last year, was provided for free to an unspecified number of students in Las Vegas. The city hopes to use the network during the fall semester to support around 1,000 K-12 students as well as other business and smart city applications including potentially telemedicine, autonomy, and sensors.
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