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Recently, the FCC announced the intent to establish the 5G Fund, which will provide up to $9 billion in funding for networks covering historically underserved rural areas. This will supplant the previous Mobility Fund II initiative (which had primarily focused on 3G and 4G LTE) and serves as phase I of the previously-announced Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. This article explores the sources of demand behind this initiative, how the funds will be made available, and how we can help rural carriers maximize their allotment of available funding.

Rural Evolution

When we hear “5G,” our minds usually turn to dense urban environments packed with small cells and MIMO antennas atop buildings. We picture augmented-reality urban exploration and autonomous vehicles flowing through the streets. However, there is a uniquely rural need that will require the same level of 5G coverage: precision agriculture.

As its name suggests, precision agriculture (or precision farming) aims to improve production quality and efficiency by adopting a more data-driven approach to agricultural land management. This includes site-specific crop management, which enables farmers to map locations in their fields more precisely to facilitate yield monitoring and crop scouting. Precision agriculture techniques also provides farmers a deeper understanding of their land, including soil pH levels, soil nutrient levels, and other topographical details. It also enables them to monitor their land over time, yielding rates of soil erosion, nutrient depletion and more.

All these activities generate a massive amount of individual data points, which is set to increase exponentially over the following decade:

As farmers invest more heavily in precision agriculture equipment, it is imperative that their service networks can adequately handle the dramatic increase data they generate. To this end, the 5G fund has earmarked $9 billion specifically to facilitate precision agriculture adoption.

Availability of Funds

The FCC intends to make these funds available via four mechanisms of the Universal Service Fund, each of which is designed to support a different segment of the rural market:

  • High Cost Support Mechanism, which provides support to certain qualifying telephone companies that serve high cost areas
  • Low Income Support Mechanism, which assists low-income customers by helping to pay for monthly telephone charges
  • Rural Health Care Support, which allows rural health care providers to pay rates for telecommunications services, making telehealth services affordable
  • “E-Rate,” provides telecommunication services including Internet access, and internal connections, to eligible schools and libraries.

As with previous initiatives, the funds will be awarded via auction, scheduled to begin in October 2020.

Maximizing Your Funding

As Champion ONE offers rural carriers an opportunity to deploy carrier-grade solutions at a fraction of the cost of a traditional network OEM without sacrificing performance. For 5G deployments, consider our full suite of 25G optics, as well as passive mux/demuxes that can increase bandwidth when fiber is scarce.

To discuss these solutions, contact Champion ONE today.

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