It's challenging to determine BEAD-eligible locations, says Wireless 20/20

It’s become obvious that it’s going to be super complicated for states to define the bidding areas for Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment (BEAD) grants.

Some states may define bid areas by census blocks, school districts or some other defined geography or cluster. But other states may go with a “free-for-all” approach, allowing bidders to say where they want to bid. Complexities will arise because bidders will probably have to work out deals with incumbent providers to reach many unserved areas in order to avoid duplicate infrastructure.

It turns out that having detailed maps, showing all existing fiber infrastructure, is going to be really important.

Wireless 20/20 is a consulting firm that has been doing geospatial mapping of fiber broadband infrastructure since 2019. And now, Wireless 20/20 is offering two tools to help state broadband offices, service providers, private equity companies and any other stakeholders involved in the BEAD bidding process.

Wireless 20/20 offers two tools: its WiROI Fiber Business Case Analysis Tool and its WiROI db Geospatial SaaS Platform. “WiROI” stands for wired and wireless return on investment.

“Typically, the two tools go hand in hand,” said Haig Sarkissian, founder and principal consultant at Wireless 20/20.

The geospatial tool shows the broadband infrastructure of every service provider, using every technology in the U.S. And it shows uplink and downlink speeds. The geospatial tool also identifies anchor institutions and shows other important structures that can pose obstacles to fiber builds – such as bridges and tunnels.

Sarkissian said the first thing that needs to be done is to determine grant-eligible locations.

It takes some sophisticated computations to know the total number of locations in an area, then to subtract the served locations, then to subtract the already-funded but not-yet-constructed locations to arrive at the grant-eligible locations. “States should publish grant-eligible locations, but so far, they have not,” he said.

Wireless 20/20 is offering its tools to help states determine grant-eligible locations. And after those have been identified, then Wireless 20/20’s tools can also help users to run fiber-mile analysis to calculate the number of miles of fiber that must be deployed to connect a location.

“The brownfield analysis could save fiber miles simply by connecting the fiber route to the closest existing fiber points,” said Sarkissian. “States want to know that kind of information to make it conducive for adjacencies. That’s what’s going to save money.”

Finally, Wireless 20/20’s tools can also conduct the financial analysis to determine how much money is needed to build to a grant-eligible location.

Sarkissian said, “Private equity firms have very good ROI models for financial, but they don’t have the geospatial data.”

Berge Ayvazian, senior analyst and consultant at Wireless 20/20, said, “States are struggling, trying to sort out the coverage issues. Operators don’t cooperate, they compete. States are realizing they need the same kind of sophisticated capabilities that the ISPs have access to in order to allow operators the information to bid.”

Wireless 20/20 is meeting with state broadband officers and proposing that they use its tools to do state-level fiber-mile analysis. Sarkissian said that in the past it could take an enormous amount of computing power to do the analysis quickly, but the Wireless 20/20 tool has compressed the time. He said the tool can do the entire state of Vermont in about two hours.


Wireless 20/20 is already licensing its tools to multiple ISPs and private equity companies. It got started with geospatial mapping in 2019 when companies needed help preparing to bid for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) grants.

“In the past three years, we have helped our clients apply for more than $10 billion of grants using these tools,” said Sarkissian. In addition to RDOF, the tools have been used to apply for ARPA, RUS and Capital Projects Fund grants.

Wireless 20/20 has published a white paper, which outlines a methodology for analyzing the financial merits of BEAD-funded projects. The white paper titled "Closing the Digital Divide in Vermont: A Business Case Study of BEAD," says:

  1. In most states, there is not enough funding to cover the cost of fiber deployment capex even with 50-50 funding.
  2. The vast majority of locations are remote and rural with densities of less than 4 homes per mile, which presents an enormous challenge for bidders even if they receive 80% subsidy.
  3. Even if 100% of the cost to build fiber is subsidized, the cost of operating and maintaining a network with less than 2 homes per mile is not attractive to most investors.