Speeding Up Access to Broadband Services in Rural Communities, 5G Expansion Supports Life Changing Services and New Economic Opportunities

By Special Guest
Reece Loftus
  |  January 29, 2021

With the natural advantages of ultra-fast 5G networks, addressing the decades-old digital divide in the U.S. is becoming a reality. Boosting rural infrastructure with modernized networks, commercial businesses, governments, schools, healthcare institutions and service providers are coming together to bring underserved communities in America’s heartland educational and economic opportunities and a more level playing field as the economy starts to recover from the impact of 2020’s health crisis and slowdown.

To appreciate the impact 5G promises, look to the facts. The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC (News - Alert)) 2019 Broadband Deployment Report revealed that tens of millions of Americans did not have access to an acceptable high-speed fixed broadband connection (defined as at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload).

A Broadband Now survey estimated that only 52% of the U.S. population can access high-speed fixed broadband for less than $60 a month, and among American low-income households earning below $30,000 a year, 44% have no broadband services at all, according to the Pew Research Center.

Last week, Ribbon Communications (News - Alert) announced, alongside their partner KPGCo, they are working with Eastern Slope Rural Telephone, headquartered in eastern Colorado to bring immediate and long-term access to affordable mobile broadband services to market. This rural service provider has incorporated Ribbon's IP and Optical Transport solutions into its network, dramatically increasing its broadband network's capacity, including 5G coverage.

Working with KGPCo on the project, Ribbon's IP has empowered Eastern Slope's network to match the rapid growth that they anticipate, allowing them to maintain high standards of broadband for their residential and business customers.

Given the forecast move from big cities to more peaceful and affordable rural communities, it is easy to understand why Eastern Slope is anticipating rapid growth.

 The COVID-19 health crisis is impacting migration patterns, and part of the national response has been the FCC’s 2020 Keep Americans Connected initiative which includes measures designed to address increased demand for broadband, granting temporary authority to wireless ISPs to use additional spectrum in order to meet the Internet access needs as Americans work from home. The FCC also announced a program to boost rural healthcare funding by over $42 million to promote telehealth solutions for patients during the outbreak.

As 5G becomes more available, especially over low-band frequencies like 600MHz that can cover more distance in rural areas, wireless broadband from companies like Eastern Slope finally have a viable option in areas where it difficult to lay fiber. 5G connections can be provided via either a fixed wireless access service or 5G portable hotspot devices.

Massachusetts-based Ribbon Communications Inc. is bringing Eastern Slope IP Optical Transport solutions including packet and optical networking leveraging ECI's Elastic Network technology (Ribbon merged with ECI in 2019), as well as Unified Communications (News - Alert) services including voice, video conferencing, contact center and other business applications including first responder solutions, which are critical in rural areas.

"Because our previous network was approaching end-of-life and had limited capacity, we needed to upgrade to an end-to-end next-generation system that would easily accommodate current and future growth without disrupting service to our existing customers," said Brian Miller, Manager at Eastern Slope. "The Ribbon IP and Optical Transport solutions met all of our requirements. In addition to delivering a highly scalable solution that easily accommodates future bandwidth growth, they also enable numerous benefits, including allowing us to continue to support legacy TDM services and provide additional support for mobile backhaul and business services."

"Eastern Slope is already leveraging our market-leading Call Control solutions, so we are delighted to help them expand the capacity of their network and increase customer broadband speeds with our IP and Optical Transport solutions," said Elizabeth Page, U.S. Rural Market Director for Ribbon. "This is another great example of how existing Ribbon Cloud and Edge customers can also leverage our IP and Optical Transport solutions to expand and help future-proof their broadband networks while enhancing end-customer offerings."

"KGPCo is excited to partner with Ribbon to help Eastern Slope upgrade their communications network," said Desi O'Grady, Senior Vice President of KGPCo. "KGPCo and Ribbon have developed a strong relationship that leverages our respective strengths to support our customers. From procurement to implementation, KGPCo worked closely with Ribbon to create a customized solution to meet Eastern Slope's requirements."

Ribbon's Apollo Optical Systems allow business platforms to interwork seamlessly and provide scalable, high-density, and energy-efficient solutions across metro, regional and long-haul topologies. Apollo enables network operators to deploy optical networks that continue lowering the cost per bit while simultaneously providing a variety of benefits:

  • Open systems for disaggregated solutions
  • Complete security with layer one optical encryption
  • Dynamic configurability to meet growing and shifting traffic patterns.

Ribbon's Neptune Packet Systems are at the forefront of next-generation packet transport technology. Native 5G capabilities showcase it as a leader in 5G packet transport solutions. With Elastic MPLS, it can cost-efficiently support diverse service needs on a right-size platform. With programmable capabilities, Neptune is fully tailorable to meet the needs of Service Providers, MSOs, and mission-critical industries.

With the market-leading and 5G-Native Neptune and Apollo platforms, Ribbon is providing Eastern Slope with a high capacity and low latency system featuring advanced Layer 2 Ethernet aggregation capabilities along with a next-generation Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) network to deliver faster data speeds. This efficient multi-layer network solution allows for seamless evolution into any future 5G services enabling Eastern Slope to be consistently future-ready and maximize efficiency.

Edited by Maurice Nagle