Newport Utilities Proves Fixed Wireless Access Is a Viable Alternative to Fiber

NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / November 10, 2022 / Ericsson:

Learn how Newport Utilities overcame challenging mountainous terrain and a global pandemic to extend high-speed broadband to underserved homes and businesses in rural communities.


In 2017, Newport Utilities began rolling out fiber-based high-speed broadband across the communities it serves in rural Cocke County, Tennessee. However, when deploying fiber to remote customers in the mountainous terrain of this area proved too costly, and the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to work and learn from home, the company worked with Ericsson to design and deploy an alternate to fiber. Built on Ericsson Massive MIMO technology, the fixed wireless access solution proved easier and more cost effective to deploy than fiber, and today is a vital driver of economic development, providing more than 8,000 homes and businesses with access to broadband speeds never before possible.


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"I'm very happy that Newport Utilities decided to partner with Ericsson. They provided us with a solution that works, it's reliable, and enables us to get essential high-speed broadband out to a lot more people-faster and more efficiently."

- Chris Calhoun, Vice President of Operations and Technology, Newport Utilities

Watch Newport Utilities' Vice President of Operations and Technology explain how Ericsson helped solve his unique challenges with an innovative, first-of-its-kind fixed wireless solution. (Above)

The challenge

As a community-focused local government agency, Newport Utilities recognized broadband as an essential utility service and launched a major initiative to bring high-speed broadband access to underserved homes and businesses in its service area via fiber-optic cable. However, the utility encountered two major challenges along the way:

High cost of deploying fiber

Ultimately, Newport Utilities found that deploying fiber in the rugged mountainous terrain where some of its more rural customers reside was simply cost-prohibitive.

Lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic forced Newport Utilities to halt its fiber deployment because it was unsafe for installers to enter people's homes for the final connections. Practically overnight people were required to work from home, children had to attend school virtually, and access to telemedicine suddenly became life critical. Yet, thousands of households and businesses lacked access to high-speed broadband. The situation created a sense of urgency for Newport Utilities to find an alternative to fiber.

The solution

Newport Utilities reasoned that fixed wireless technology was a way to augment its fiber infrastructure, and after evaluating several vendor proposals, chose the solution recommended by Ericsson. This transformational solution is a fixed wireless access network leveraging the 3.5 Ghz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) comprising the following Ericsson technologies and services:

Ericsson Hardware

Ericsson Software

Ericsson Services

Solution Advantages

  • Lower total cost of ownership

  • Faster return on investment

  • Higher capacity and coverage

  • Lower latency

  • Reduced interference

  • Lower cost per megabit

"Our job is to be the technology experts and offer up the right solution for the problem our customer is trying to solve. In some cases, it may be a solution the customer didn't originally envision, but it is the best fit to their needs."

- Jennie Bratten, Director of Utility Sales, Ericsson

The result

Today, Newport Utilities has a fixed wireless access solution with enough capacity to deliver vital high-speed broadband to more than 8,000 homes and businesses across rural Cocke County who previously lacked access. The impact has been profound:

Reaches more people with fewer sites

Instead of requiring 60 sites, the Ericsson solution enables Newport Utilities to reach most of its target customers with just 11 "macro" towers and another 12 small cell sites to fill in areas that are shadowed in the hollows between the surrounding mountains.

Brings community broadband speeds never before seen

In some areas, residents and businesses now get broadband speeds of up to 200 Mbps through the fixed wireless access network, and speeds of 80-90 Mbps are commonplace across the service area.

Makes a difference in people's lives and livelihoods

Provides rural households and businesses with access to the same kind of high-speed broadband found in any major city, supporting employment, online schoolwork, and telemedicine.

Assures reliable, optimal network operations 24/7

Ericsson Managed Services augments the lean in-house staff with skills and expertise to run the day-to-day operation of the fixed wireless access network and proactively manages issues to assure service uptime.

Simplifies future network expansion

Newport Utilities can continually scale up its broadband services to meet increasing demand and expand into 5G with a simple software upgrade, avoiding a large capital expense.

"With a clear line of site to our towers, people will see connection speeds they've never experienced before. When we got our broadband service up to the more remote part of our service area, people were just ecstatic."

- Chris Calhoun, Vice President of Operations and Technology, Newport Utilities

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Ericsson, Thursday, November 10, 2022, Press release picture
Ericsson, Thursday, November 10, 2022, Press release picture

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Spokesperson: Ericsson

SOURCE: Ericsson

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