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Baicells, Tohono O’odham Utility Authority partner to deliver LTE connectivity to residents

September 5, 2023

Posted by: Janmesh Chintankar

Minchul Ho of Baicells Technologies

Baicells Technologies, has partnered with Tohono O’odham Utility Authority (TOUA) to bring access to advanced broadband connectivity and opportunity for tribal residents. The reservation boundary is approximately 30 miles west of Tucson, Arizona and extends south along the border with Mexico, Tohono O’odham nation of roughly 28,000 members, is spread across a number of remote villages where bringing access to broadband has always been a major challenge. Previously relying on basic Wi-Fi connectivity, in limited locations and with high Mbps speeds only in single digits, TOUA long recognised need to overhaul and upgrade their infrastructure and so built out their network plan.

In their mission to bring digital equity they secured funding from Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) ActReconnect Programme, and NTIA (national telecommunications and information administration).  This funding led to build out of an advanced LTE (long-term evolution) network across their tribal lands using wireless network infrastructure, CPE (customer premises equipment), and support from Baicells. Since project’s inception in 2020, the tribe has successfully deployed a dual-band private 4G LTE network, comprising of approximately 50 base stations and looking to serve an estimated 3,000 homes across Tohono O’odham Nation. The private network utilises 2.5 GHz spectrum in LTE Band 41 and continues to add capacity across reservation using CBRS (citizens broadband radio service) in Band 48.

Since tribal lands are roughly the size of Connecticut, and an increased population distribution, wireless was a skilful approach to get residents connected. A network that could still offer high performance and be rolled out speedily to help get residents online. Baicells high-power LTE radios with extended range and favorable economics have successfully overcome these environmental challenges, delivering secured broadband connectivity to large portions of community.

The Baicells LTE radios are installed on towers, ensuring that residents are covered and can get connected. The current infrastructure, on air since 2021, delivers 4G LTE services, with plans to transition to 5G to accommodate growing demand for capacity and performance. Additional activities for network functionality and use cases like serving their other utility infrastructure, and even offering mobility, are also in review.

“Understanding our remote location and lack of service by any existing carriers, we knew it was up to us to address this issue of broadband access; we have experience and a track record of solving these types of challenges for our communities. And a private network that we can manage on our own was a great fit since we are very accustomed to operating our own infrastructure. We already do this for other key utilities like electricity and water and in today’s age, internet access is just another utility.” says Kristan Johnson, operations manager for Tohono O’odham Utility Authority.

With lightning speed, Tohono O’odham nation can utilise modern applications like video streaming and have an ability to view volumes of content like never before. The performance upgrade to connectivity has made video chats a real option now, bringing access to essential services and opportunities to more residents across to community. By leveraging a private LTE network, Tohono community maintains sovereignty over its network infrastructure, offering a secure solution tailor made and dedicated to their community.

“The primary objective of this initiative is to enhance communications and access to content and educational services, with the high-speed connectivity provided by this network. Baicells core mission is empowering unserved communities and bridging the digital divide with affordable solutions. The success of the partnership with the TOUA showcases the company’s dedication and commitment to this mission.” says Minchul Ho, CEO Americas at Baicells.

Baicells will be exhibiting and speaking at upcoming NTTA (national tribal telecommunications association) event in Phoenix August 28-30 and annual TribalNet Conference September 18-21 in San Diego. To learn more stop by their booth at one of these tribal events.

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