CenturyLink counts 28 towers on its road map for fixed wireless

DENVER—On stage at the Big 5G Event yesterday, CenturyLink’s CTO Andrew Dugan was immediately asked why a company such as CenturyLink would come to a 5G conference, given the fact that it doesn’t have a wireless business.

Dugan had a good answer. “We’re fiber rich. We provide the fiber to connect the radios for fronthaul and backhaul access networks. It’s primarily a supporting role for major wireless carriers.”

However, CenturyLink is dipping its toes into fixed wireless access. Dugan said CenturyLink is “in the process of deploying technologies under the 5G umbrella.” He cited 64x64 massive MIMO arrays and beamforming with 8 and 16 layers of beam widths for the rural deployments.

He said, “We’re deploying for a fixed wireless application. It doesn’t make sense to build fiber out to farming communities,” he said. “We’re using CBRS in our initial deployments. We’ve got three towers now, and we’re working on the next 25.” 

“We’re generally deploying on macro towers,” said Dugan. “It’s inconsistent performance at best. You can have a set of homes in line with one getting 80 megs and the home behind getting 1 meg.”

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CenturyLink’s fixed wireless road map is tapping money from the FCC’s Connect America Fund. “For us, 5G is an important technology,” said Dugan. “We plan to leverage it and help others to leverage it.

Back to the Fiber

CenturyLink purchased Level 3 in November 2017, bringing in Level 3’s extensive fiber holdings. And on yesterday’s first quarter 2019 earnings call, CenturyLink CEO Jeff Storey said the company’s fiber was “our very best asset.” CenturyLink continues to expand its fiber network, and during the quarter it connected nearly 4,500 new buildings to its network.

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Storey said, “CenturyLink owns and operates nearly all of the major next-generation long-haul fiber networks ever built in the U.S. We have more than 150,000 on-net enterprise buildings on our global network. We connect to more than 2,200 public and private data centers and have connectivity to approximately 60 web scale data centers.”

Dugan said that in addition to reaching a broad customer base with fiber, “wireless towers are also taken into our fiber plant. We hit quite a few towers today.”