UScellular demos 5G FWA in Alleman, Iowa — population 423

UScellular brought its 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) technology to North Polk High School in Alleman, Iowa, on Tuesday to show state government officials how it can be used to connect homes, business and classrooms – with the added benefit of mobility.

The location was selected to represent the typical characteristics of any small town in rural America, according to UScellular. Alleman has a population of 423 people.

The wireless operator was joined by technology leaders at Ericsson, Qualcomm and the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA). Attendees included state legislators and members of the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Task Force.

They used millimeter wave (mmWave) and low band spectrum combined to deliver speeds of 850 Mbps downlink and over 100 Mbps uplink, according to a UScellular spokesperson.

The demonstration was in advance of the activation of UScellular’s significant investment in mid-band spectrum.  UScellular acquired 3.45 GHz spectrum in 2022 and C-band spectrum in 2021; its C-band spectrum becomes available at the end of 2023.

In a press release, UScellular said they used specially designed rural antennas connected to a nearby cell tower powered with fiber to conduct video calls with more than 20 participants across Iowa. Immediately after the demonstration, attendees were given a tour of a local cell tower where they were able to see the inside of the base station and the equipment that makes it all possible.

“Estimates show that 106,000 Iowans lack access to essential broadband connectivity, creating a digital divide that affects families and businesses across the state,” said Rebecca Thompson, vice president of government affairs at UScellular, in a statement. “Along with our partners at Ericsson, Qualcomm, and WIA, we are committed to investing in broadband infrastructure and the latest wireless technology to help deliver reliable, high-speed internet access to underserved Iowa communities now and in the future. It’s what we do best at UScellular – connect people to what matters most.”

Of course, it’s no secret that UScellular wants a portion of federal grant money to help fund infrastructure investments in its rural territories. So it can’t hurt to show state legislators first-hand how those kinds of dollars can fuel 5G investments in their neighborhoods.

“Fixed Wireless Access is a strong tool available to states as they seek to use unprecedented federal infrastructure funding to connect more residents to broadband,” said Mike Saperstein, senior vice president of government affairs and chief strategy officer for WIA in a statement. “5G wireless technology is a viable option for many areas, and the demo today proved it.”