Nextlink taps Nokia for CBRS deployment in rural U.S.

One of the biggest bidders in the FCC’s Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) auction is wasting no time putting those licenses to work.

Nextlink Internet, which is owned by AMG Technology Investment Group, is using Nokia’s AirScale 4G LTE Radio Access Network (RAN), which is 5G-ready, to deliver broadband service in places with limited or no access to broadband.

AMG ranked third in terms of the number of licenses won in the 3.5 GHz CBRS auction that ended in August, bidding $28.4 million for a total of 1,072 Priority Access Licenses (PALs). The airwaves are well suited for delivering high-speed internet services using fixed wireless network technology, according to Nextlink, which also has been active in the FCC’s Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) to bridge the digital divide.

RELATED: Here’s how NextLink—the biggest CAF II auction winner—is spending its $281M

In fact, Nextlink and Nokia say they’re currently deploying up to 25 new towers a month to support subscriber growth and will retrofit existing towers with Nokia CBRS-based gear to reach more households, schools and businesses.  

“In today’s world, where work-from-home and remote learning have become the norm, the broadband needs of a typical household have exploded, and peak usage patterns have shifted from the evening to the middle of the day, when multiple family members are simultaneously online,” said Bill Baker, CEO of Nextlink Internet, in a statement. “At the same time, small businesses, retail stores, schools, government agencies and other entities need to increase their online presence to support e-commerce transactions, educational offerings, patient services, and more. Nextlink has partnered with Nokia to deliver a network that will connect entire communities in the regions that we serve and meet the demands of these applications now and in the future.”

Nextlink expects to offer internet speeds up to 100 Mbps downlink and 20 Mbps uplink in rural and underserved regions in 11 states: Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

Nextlink is using Google’s Spectrum Access System (SAS), which manages spectrum availability, and Google’s browser-based Network Planner for network efficiencies.

Nextlink is a member of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), which applauded the FCC for a successful CBRS auction. The auction included smaller geographic license areas – county-sized rather than Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) – that enabled its members to participate. Close to 70 WISPA members, which typically are smaller companies serving hard-to-reach rural areas, placed winning bids in the auction. They also can access 80 MHz of General Authorized Access (GAA) unlicensed spectrum in the CBRS band.