5G Networks: Revolutionizing the Future

5G is not just faster 4G – it offers up a broad range of new network architecture, operational and service options that go beyond smartphone connectivity, and it can take full advantage of cloud platforms, open architectures, semiconductor innovations and more. In this panel discussion, held during MWC in Barcelona, James Estes, CEO Dense Air, Arun Bhikshesvaran, CEO Radisys Corporation, and Vinay Ravuri, CEO EdgeQ Inc. explore the revolutionary potential of the many 5G options available to enterprises, mobile operators, cities and communities, and other indoor & outdoor public and private use cases.

Building more inclusive wireless networks: An interview with Brenna Berman

This summer, Dense Air welcomed Brenna Berman, a globally recognized expert on cities, technology, and urban innovation, as our Executive Vice President of Strategic Partnerships. In this role, Brenna brings her public and private sector leadership experience to bear in identifying opportunities for Dense Air to partner with cities and harness our innovative technology to strengthen connectivity for all residents.

We recently sat down with Brenna to discuss her new role, why equitable wireless access is so important, how Dense Air partners with cities to advance digital equity, and more.

Welcome to Dense Air, Brenna! A major reason why you decided to join the company was the opportunity to focus on expanding access to wireless broadband. Can you explain what this means and why it’s important?

In today’s interconnected world, access to broadband is critical to enabling individuals to work, study, engage with their community, and more. Unfortunately, due to the traditional way that infrastructure has been structured and built, many communities across the country lack equitable access to broadband, including uneven wireless coverage. Without reliable connectivity to digital services, this digital divide exacerbates existing inequalities.

While we can all agree that closing the digital divide is important, the real challenge lies in making it happen. Expanding networks requires significant investments in physical infrastructure, such as fiber optic cables and cellular towers. Geographical remoteness and inadequate funding make it logistically difficult and economically unviable for private providers to extend services to areas that are already underserved, such as rural and low-income communities. And when providers do expand their networks, they pay a high price to build duplicative infrastructure that disrupts city life.

This sounds like a daunting challenge. How can we address it?

It’s time — in fact, it’s long overdue — for us to fundamentally rethink this system to make digital equity achievable. Through new technologies, strategic funding models, and innovative public-private partnerships, we can support communities in reaching this important goal.

Achieving broadband equity will require a concerted effort from governments, private sector entities, and communities to overcome infrastructure challenges while ensuring affordability. It will not be a quick and easy process, but it will help to bring us closer to having an inclusive and equitable society.

What role does Dense Air play in this effort to advance broadband equity?

Dense Air is uniquely positioned to help communities tackle this critically important challenge because we take a holistic new approach to enabling carriers to expand their wireless networks. Our solution focuses on four main pillars:

  1. We deploy and operate innovative shared network infrastructure, which introduces, for the first time, the unique ability for multiple wireless network operators and private users to utilize the network simultaneously. This decreases the cost of building and managing the wireless networks over time.
  2. We leverage existing physical infrastructure, such as light poles, utility poles, and roofs, to reduce the cost of building the network, to deploy faster, and to reduce disruption to the community.
  3. We use data-driven coverage gap analysis to help us understand where a community lacks coverage today and to build a roadmap for the future. Our denseWare analytics tool evaluates coverage at the call level to help us and communities determine where best to make investments.
  4. We think holistically with our investments, which allows us and our partners to build a balanced business case across entire cities, not just the wealthiest neighborhoods.

How does Dense Air work with cities and other key stakeholders?

Combining technology innovation with strategic funding models is an excellent start to solving cities’ network challenges, but it isn’t enough. I know from years of experience as the Chief Information Officer of Chicago that cities can only achieve their innovation goals with strong partnerships based on aligned incentives.  That’s why, at Dense Air, we are focused on creating highly collaborative partnerships with cities as we help them solve intractable challenges. Through these partnerships, we contribute our technology and ingenuity to create new business opportunities. In turn, the cities and communities share infrastructure assets and help us streamline processes to drive down the overall cost and time of network deployment. As a result, communities receive reliable and affordable broadband access, in a shorter timeframe and with less disruption.  

Digital equity has been a rallying cry for cities for many years, but today, we have the ideal conditions to achieve the networks of the future that residents deserve. Dense Air is focused on delivering that future, and we look forward to partnering with the cities that share our vision.

Bringing shared, open network infrastructure to the US market

Building on Dense Air’s success across the UK and Europe, we are strengthening our focus on the US market, where we’re seeing both growing demand for Open RAN technology and an increasing need for sustainable 5G deployment. Dense Air, with our innovative RAN-as-a-Service (RaaS) solution, is uniquely well-positioned to meet these needs in the US through partnerships with large mobile network operators (MNOs) and communities across the country.

To drive forward this expansion, we are growing our global leadership team. In late 2022, Dense Air named Jim Estes as CEO. Jim is a well-regarded business leader within the telecom sector, bringing over 35 years of industry experience to his role as our CEO. He has previously served as CEO of Network Connex and Velocitel, as well as on the Boards of several wireless infrastructure companies. Since joining Dense Air last year, Jim has used that experience to accelerate our shared neutral-host network infrastructure model.

Dense Air brings to the market both cutting-edge technology and a new ‘as-a-service’ business model. We also have a team with an exceptionally strong track record. So it’s no surprise that operators and cities trust us and tell us that our technology is exactly what they need to expand sustainable and reliable access.

Jim Estes, CEO Dense Air

As we continue to grow our presence in the US, a core component of our strategy and mission is partnering with cities, utilities, and other public sector actors to expand connectivity in an efficient and equitable way and to help communities realize the promise of 5G. To help us identify and build these collaborations, we have added Brenna Berman to our team as EVP of Strategic Partnerships. She brings a wealth of experience, including as CEO and CIO across both public and private organizations. Brenna recently served as Chief Information Officer & Commissioner for the city of Chicago, where she spearheaded the development and execution of Chicago’s tech transformation and innovation strategy, working under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. She also founded and led City Tech, an innovative company developing tech-enabled solutions to urban challenges, and serves on the Boards of several nonprofits, tech companies, and universities.

Underpinning this growth and proliferation of partnerships is, of course, a great product. Under the leadership of Daniel Herb, who recently joined Dense Air as Head of Product from Vapor IO, we look forward to advancing our innovative product offering and accelerating our product roadmap. Daniel has been focused on innovation in connectivity — from 5G to IoT — throughout his entire career and has held a variety of senior leadership roles at T-Mobile, Amazon, and more.

Dense Air is pioneering the move to shared network infrastructure, offering neutral-host RaaS solutions that enhance and extend MNOs’ services. But those changes in deployment also represent a shift in the operating model for these MNOs. That’s why Dense Air has brought on Ken Czosnowski as EVP for Business Development and James Wise as COO. Ken joins us from Centerline Communications and, previously, FDH Velocitel, and James was most recently the COO of Network Connex. They each bring three decades of experience in the telecom industry, and they are well-positioned to work with our MNO partners in the adoption and delivery of indoor and outdoor small cell deployments.

Similar to how our technology is transforming operating models, introducing our RaaS solution to MNOs requires business model innovation as well. To guide our approach to this, Dense Air has brought on Doug Lee, who co-founded Peerless Network, as CFO. Doug brings 33 years of experience in finance and 22 years in the telecom industry to his new role, where he leads our investment strategy and helps build strong strategic alliances with our vendors and business partners.

Dense Air is poised for a successful 2023, with a fast-growing demand for the deployment of our technology. These leaders will be central to that effort in the US and beyond, and we look forward to expanding our rapid progress in the months ahead.

Click here to learn more about careers at Dense Air.

Open RAN: Driving Innovation and Diversity in Tomorrow’s 5G Networks

Earlier this month, key stakeholders from across the telecom space gathered in New Orleans at the Connect (X) Conference to discuss a broad range of issues and opportunities shaping the future of the industry. One of the most widely discussed and debated topics this year was the introduction and execution of Open RAN, interoperable technologies that enable a more diverse, resilient, and secure ecosystem for radio access networks.      

At Dense Air, we’re delighted to see our industry increasingly turn its focus to the opportunities unlocked by Open RAN technologies, an area where we’ve long been focused, and which is at the core of our business. We believe that the widespread adoption of Open RAN is critical to closing the digital divide and making connectivity more open, shared, and inclusive.

Paul Trubridge, Dense Air’s SVP of Global Solutions, shared our perspective on the main stage:      

In many instances, the economics of a mobile network operator (MNO) building out its network is broken, which is why we see areas where coverage and capacity are limited. This is especially true for the mid-band 5G, where the revenue per user (RPU) advantages from 5G aren’t enough to fund overlays for each individual operator. RAN sharing fundamentally changes the economics and solves this problem: when RAN infrastructure is shared by multiple MNOs or mixed public/private use cases, the costs per operator are significantly reduced.

Open RAN architecture is built with scalability as a primary goal. It allows for multiple operators and mixed-use cases, which means that multiple vendors can use a single network site. For instance, Open RAN supports MORAN (Multi Operator RAN), which allows all the infrastructure except the radio carriers — the antenna, tower, site, and power — to be shared by multiple mobile operators. Open RAN also supports MOCN (Multi Operator Core Network), which is similar but allows two or more network operators to share the carriers as well. Because Open RAN technologies are highly customizable, they create the building blocks for a system that can remain scalable and reliable, even as network demand increases.

Thanks to cloud computing, Open RAN architecture also allows for virtualization — meaning the use of dedicated hardware with flexible software components that can scale the network. If the RAN footprint needs to expand or new service providers want to be hosted or new use cases emerge, we have the ability to do that without investing in expensive new hardware.

Finally, Dense Air’s use of Open RAN architecture also allows the network to use a range of vendors, as opposed to being locked in to one vendor in perpetuity. For instance, we can mix-and-match radio units and scale up or down using hyper-scaler software technology. Because Dense Air can do this without having to install new physical infrastructure, we can ensure that the network uses the best suppliers for the task at hand, increasing vendor diversity and reducing supply chain risks.

Taken together, through our early adoption of Open RAN technology, we have created a future-proof solution. By allowing for multiple vendors, virtualizing key components, and allowing multiple operators to leverage the same hardware, we’re building a solution that can expand as a population’s needs expand — deployments that can stand the test of time.

We’re excited to see others across our industry increasingly start to appreciate the innovation and opportunities that Open RAN technologies can unlock.

– Ken Czosnowski, EVP Business Development

Dense Air partners with Citymesh and Digi to expand 5G access across Belgium

As the widespread adoption of 5G accelerates, Dense Air is delighted to partner with Citymesh and Digi. Through this partnership, Citymesh and Digi will strengthen their 5G network across Belgium by deploying Dense Air’s RAN-as-a-Service (RaaS) small cells, which will enable the MNOs to offer enhanced coverage, higher speeds, and greater capacity. The deployment of Dense Air’s small cells will densify Citymesh and Digi’s existing macro network across the country while expanding 4G and 5G service availability in hard-to-reach places that the macro layer struggles to reach.

This partnership and deployment build on Citymesh and Digi’s acquisition of Dense Air Belgium, a subsidiary of Dense Air Networks, earlier this year. Dense Air Belgium has enhanced the MNOs’ spectrum portfolio with its 2.6GHz TDD spectrum, which added 45MHz of prime 4G/5G spectrum to Citymesh and Digi’s spectrum portfolio, and provides access to Dense Air’s unique RaaS 4G and 5G neutral host solution, both of which will play an important role in enhancing  4G and 5G services in high-density urban areas – all at a significantly reduced cost. 

5G network availability across across Belgium is extremely limited, particularly in Brussels if compared to other urban centres.

Dense Air’s mission is to help communities and carriers realize the promise of 5G, which we achieve by driving down the costs of small cell deployments through RAN infrastructure that can accommodate multiple operators and multiple use cases. This approach yielded breakthroughs in 2023: current multi-band radio units now support up to 400 MHz wideband radios carrying MNO-licenced and shared spectrum for public and private networks.

By using big data insights provided by Dense Air’s proprietary DenseWare analytics platform, Citymesh and Digi will now be able to target deployments street-by-street and even building-by-building, identifying where mobile networks are not performing — and, importantly, where macro investment is not viable.

Working with Citymesh and Digi, Dense Air will deliver meaningful improvements to existing end-users while also helping to drive and support new 4G and 5G business cases. Be it street-side, indoor, or outdoor, understanding where 4G and 5G networks are failing offers hugely valuable insight for operators as they consider where shared and as-a-service solutions can be deployed on a cost-optimized and shared basis.

Dense Air Working with the New Zealand Government to Explore Accelerating 5G Connectivity Nationwide

Dense Air is negotiating an administrative allocation of 3.5 GHz spectrum to help bring 5G connectivity to under-served areas of New Zealand.

The government of New Zealand has taken welcome steps to close the digital divide — and to enable New Zealand to become a leader in 5G network access across both populous cities and remote rural towns and communities. 

Holistic 5G coverage requires an unprecedented densification of radio access points, yet deployments that extend connectivity to rural regions and address city coverage gaps can be difficult and costly. Dense Air promotes and provides shared network infrastructure “as-a-Service” to help incumbent service providers deliver on these goals faster and more economically than traditional approaches allow. 

Dense Air’s shared, small-cell infrastructure doesn’t replace existing networks — it augments and extends them. Today, providers often have difficulty in reaching remote areas economically, and providing high-quality coverage to all corners of densely populated cities. Often, the investment required is not viable for a single service provider, and even with government initiatives for rural builds, such deployments are expensive to maintain. Dense Air’s neutral host radio access network addresses these issues by providing a seamless extension of the existing service providers’ networks, using shared infrastructure — economically increasing network density and offering ubiquitous coverage in places that might otherwise be left behind.

Today, we’re proud to announce that Dense Air, the world’s leading provider of shared 4G and 5G neutral host radio access network infrastructure, will work alongside Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) to address mobile coverage challenges in under-served areas. CIP is the public entity established to manage the government of New Zealand’s investment in broadband infrastructure and seeks to facilitate the faster delivery of 4G and 5G services in rural communities across the country. 

The government has agreed to progress discussions around the provision of 3.5 GHz spectrum to Dense Air, subject to the outcome of final negotiations. Dense Air plans to use this spectrum, in partnership with the mobile service providers, to help extend and densify networks across the country. Thanks to the government’s work program, more New Zealanders will be better served by 5G connections, ensuring access to the same quality of mobile services as those in New Zealand’s more populated areas. 

Dense Air plans to work with the government through CIP to identify key rural locations of economic and community significance — including visitor sites, small towns, and other currently under-served communities — and to build a single shared network in these areas capable of broadcasting the services of each of the service providers. In parallel with these rural rollouts, Dense Air will deliver new, high-capacity neutral host infrastructure to provide coverage and capacity in under-served urban and suburban areas, and work with the government to identify the best applications for Dense Air technology in other settings.

Dense Air has been active in New Zealand since 2018. During this time Dense Air has successfully completed initial network integrations, technical trials, and production deployments. Since 2021, Dense Air’s solutions have been in commercial operation in New Zealand in diverse applications such as corporate offices and shopping malls. This next step into 5G neutral host solutions greatly expands the applicability of Dense Air’s solutions to the New Zealand market, allowing  Dense Air to expand and enhance New Zealand’s 4G and 5G network reach — providing connectivity where it’s needed.

Dense Air is a subsidiary of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a company that combines differentiated technology with precedent-setting infrastructure projects to address critical societal needs. Dense Air operates within SIP’s CoFi innovation platform, which aims to make connectivity more open, shared, and inclusive through public-private partnerships.

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