Precision agriculture is attractive IoT use case for rural operators

In the run up to the Competitive Carrier Association’s major annual event next week, Steven K. Berry, president and CEO of the organization, gave RCR Wireless News an advance look at some of the important themes attendees can explore. Noting the theme of the show is IoT Nation, he emphasized the opportunity for small and rural carriers to create new revenue opportunities by adding internet of things network support and services as part of advancements to invest in LTE upgrades to support voice-over-LTE.

CAA will host its annual Mobile Carriers show March 27-29 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev. Click here to learn more about the event.

The big four U.S. carriers are investing heavily in LTE-based IoT network and services for both LTE Cat M1 and NB-IoT. This isn’t an opportunity just for major, national carriers though, Berry said. “You have a whole host of new services that ride on a very economical narrowband IoT network. I think you’re going to see some real innovative things happening in rural America.” He mentioned the potential for precision agriculture, which uses connected devices and machinery to optimize agricultural processes to reduce costs and increase yields.

“That’s a growth opportunity for our carriers in rural America,” Berry said. “I think that the IoT opportunities for rural America…people are starting to realize high-end industrial activities are happening outside the city. That’s where our guys are going to be looking at the next revenue streams.”

FCC making moves on infrastructure siting, CBRS

On March 22 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will consider changes to rules governing the process for building small cells in locations subject to review under the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act. By removing barriers that slow down small cell deployments, the FCC, according to the proposed rules, wants to enable investing in 5G and its “massively increased throughput and reduced latency, [which]will make possible once-unimaginable advances, such as self-driving cars and growth of the internet of things.”

The mayors of 36 cities, including San Jose and Austin, have formed the Next Century Cities group to challenge the pending FCC decision as taking away local control. In a letter to the agency, the mayors said they are “calling for the support of the FCC as we seek to expedite the expansion of 5G infrastructure in our communities.”

Speaking ahead of the FCC vote, Berry said he’s hoping the FCC “will come through…and provide expedited rulemaking for siting and infrastructure deployment.” He said changes that remove long permitting and related processes, carriers “can start deploying small cells and advance wireless telecommunications, including fixed wireless, ASAP. That’s the hope.

Berry also discussed the evolving debated around the 3.5 GHz Citizens Radio Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band. A three-tier spectrum access system is in question, specifically the length of time for spectrum licenses, and whether to associate licenses with small Census tracts or larger Partial Economic Areas.

“We’re still trying to find a solution that makes a lot of sense to our members,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to figure out a way to successfully work through the different solutions with the larger and the small carriers. Everyone wants to find a compromise that feels right and looks right multiple carriers and multiple users.”

As the industry, at a global level, is on the verge of a transition from LTE to 5G, Berry emphasized the importance for smaller and rural carriers to keep pace. “You can’t get behind on your Gs. They’ve got to get to 4G LTE and VoLTE. It’s going to be pretty imperative that these small carriers get up there and get ready. They want to make smart decisions about how do you get to 4G LTE. They’ve got to get enhanced speed, greater capacity. How do you do that? That’s where these carries, they realize they’ve got to get beyond 4G LTE and they want to do that in a way that builds on the next generation opportunity.” 

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