The Wireless Industry Association’s (WIA) Telecommunications Education Center (TEC) has received contracts from Ohio’s Youngstown State University and Ashland University to launch a program that will equip students with the competencies required to design and deploy broadband infrastructure, including mobile broadband, 5G wireless communications and optical fiber. WIA executives joined Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted yesterday to launch the groundbreaking telecommunications training partnership, which is being funded by the state of Ohio.
Through the TEC-provided training, students will earn a 5G Readiness certificate that bundles 10 industry-recognized certificates. 5G subject matter experts from industry and academia helped to design the training. It consists of 80 hours of industry-validated training material, which includes hands-on exercises and a 5G site visit.
As an added benefit, the training further prepares students for the workforce by meeting the Related Technical Instructions requirements of a variety of occupations under the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), of which WIA is the national sponsor. TIRAP also has 61 employer sponsors.
“Through BroadbandOhio, our administration is aggressively working to expand high-speed internet access around Ohio, but we can’t build the infrastructure without programs to train and produce a workforce,” said Husted. “This sector partnership will spur the creation of even more training programs in the state, allowing more Ohioans to earn the skills and credentials needed to get a job in this fast-growing industry.”
Ashland University reported that it received a $160,000 grant from the Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. The university will receive support and training from WIA to administer the new program, which will be housed under the College of Online and Adult Studies. The funding will be used to collaborate with the WIA to host 5G Readiness training, and provide scholarships for 25 Ohioans to participate.
The 5G Readiness program is part a broader effort to strengthen Ohio’s broadband and 5G wireless communications workforce. On Sept. 8, WIA representatives joined Husted at the Tri-County Career Center in Nelsonville, Ohio, as he inaugurated a new fiber-optic technician training program. The state of Ohio provided $30,000 to WIA to purchase equipment and tools needed for the fiber-optic training program.
“In Ohio and across the nation, there is a sense of urgency to expand high-speed internet, but you can’t expand the infrastructure without a workforce to build it,” said Husted, who serves the director of the workforce transformation office.
“We are excited to partner with Youngstown State University and Ashland University to offer this program,” said Rikin Thakker, Ph.D., WIA’s chief technology officer. “Along with preparing the high-skilled workforce needed to deploy 5G networks, Ohio is investing to efficiently build the broadband infrastructure needed to bridge the digital divide. For students, the 5G Readiness program will encourage them to join our industry and provide pathways toward long and successful careers in wireless.
“When the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation released a report last month on ‘Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband and 5G Workforce,’ the lieutenant governor outlined a number of initiatives, including the 5G Sector Partnership and 5G Readiness Program,” Thakker said. “Only a month has passed, and this administration has already taken action, announcing these programs, which are connecting education and industry partners to help solve the identified workforce challenges. This is exemplary for many states that are trying to find innovative workforce solutions.”
Thakker said that WIA was invited to participate in numerous stakeholder meetings organized by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and BroadbandOhio this year.
“5G Readiness is one of the solutions we at WIA can provide to help address the challenges we discussed during these meetings,” he said. “Through this partnership, Ohio will not only create high-skilled workforce needed to deploy 5G networks, but will also build the broadband infrastructure faster to bridge the digital divide.”
WIA said that 5G deployment is expected to create 4.6 million jobs over the next decade. “Unlike its predecessors, 5G is not just another wireless technology,” Thakker said. “It integrates wireline and wireless advancements and will transform many other industries, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, transportation and defense. However, all of this will rely on the timely deployment of 5G networks.”
Thakker also said that he believes the WIA’s 5G Readiness program will help to address the broadband and telecom industry’s massive shortage of skilled workers.
“To help overcome this challenge, employers need industry-focused training and curriculum that can be delivered through various outlets,” Thakker said. “WIA’s Telecommunication Education Center is working hard to facilitate this training to help close the skill gaps we are facing in the industry. Our program will not only bring awareness of career options to the students, but will also show them different entry points to our industry.”
Last month, Thakker told eDigest that WIA is working with many local and state leaders to bring increased connectivity and career opportunities to communities across the country.
“I can’t speak too specifically to those plans as they’re in various stages of development, but I can tell you that our industry has experienced a notable increase of interest from elected officials about how their state can directly forge pipelines between its education systems and workforce,” Thakker said. “The Ohio plan does just that. We hope that states will see this as a prime opportunity to join Ohio as a leader in not only building broadband infrastructure, but also funding workforce development programs to support it.”
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.
DALLAS — May 25, 2016 — One of the sessions at the Wireless Infrastructure Show dealt with emerging technologies and their implications for wireless infrastructure. Ron Mudry, president of Tower Cloud, led the session. He described how backhaul is evolving to meet the needs of emerging technologies, saying there is adequate backhaul in most markets and even in rural areas.
“What we’ve seen lately is Verizon moving from lit service to dark fiber,” Mudry said. “Many dark fiber builds are going on around the country. It’s a big initiative that is putting a lot of infrastructure in the ground. The previous fiber build is nearly 20 years old, dating to the dot-com era.”
Mudry said wireless carriers have been densifying their networks because of capacity constraints. “They’ve added a lot of macro towers,” he said. “That’s provided a lot of the growth for backhaul providers and others in the industry. Now we’re seeing that shift a little to bringing capacity with small cells and mini-macros and centralized radio access network (C-RAN) technology.”
Dr. Rikin Thakker, a research assistant professor at the University of Maryland, said that cellular network operators have enough RF spectrum to serve their networks, for now. He said that operators say they need more spectrum because of a forecast rise in data demand. But research indicates other substitutes for spectrum.
“Macrosites are not going away, even though we are talking about the Internet of Things, 5G cellular technology and small cells,” Thakker said. “Macrosites will play an important role, and that could be a good substitute. Increases in efficiency with technology decrease the burden on spectrum. Wi-Fi offloading has kept the demand on licensed spectrum lower. Just increasing macrosites by 5 percent could lower the need for licensed spectrum by 98 megahertz.”
Aaron Blazer, a senior partner at Atlantic ACM said the network operators’ end-user revenue comes under pressure as competition increases. The result trickles down into infrastructure. “Operators pay attention to operating expense and the ability to deploy capital on infrastructure,” he said. “When spectrum is tapped, you look for the most efficient way to boost the network. Deploying more macrosites is a business model that carriers understand. The economics of backhaul and macrosites are well understood.”
Blazer said that when macrosites aren’t enough, non-macro densification emerges in the form of small cells and outdoor distributed antenna system (DAS) networks. He said another alternative is C-RAN technology, where operators use remote radio heads with a centralized baseband unit to make more efficient use of spectrum. He explained that a heavy fiber component changes the cost structure, especially a dark fiber component, and sometimes fiber is not available.
“After that, we see operators looking to Wi-Fi and other offloading strategies to support the network,” Blazer said. “But Wi-Fi comes third because it is not always seen as a carrier-grade technology.”
Rich Grimes, the chief operating officer of the DAS and Small Cell Group at InSite Wireless, said the carrier market for in-building DAS is finite. According to Grimes, from a carrier perspective, venue revenue-sharing is questionable. He said there is higher scrutiny for lower-capacity venues, and more cost-effective solutions will be used.
“In the forecast for DAS, capital spending for this year is pegged at about $4.8 billion and rising about 28 percent per year to more than $16 billion in 2020,” Grimes said. “A focus we’re all seeing is on reduced cost for in-building wireless systems. Also, fiber will become increasingly available to commercial buildings, and third parties in the enterprise will take a greater role in deploying DAS with the carriers’ focus being more on the capex for the LTE-Advanced roll out and small cell preparation for 5G.”
Kishore Raja, director of strategic programs at Boingo Wireless, categorized emerging technologies in three domains.
“Number one is the process of natural evolution within the licensed spectrum,” he said. “You have macro towers, and you have DAS, which augments existing towers. You have small cells, which augment by adding capacity and coverage. Number two is emerging technologies on unlicensed spectrum, such as seamless Wi-Fi access to networks. Number three is emerging technologies in the area that bridges licensed and unlicensed spectrum, such as LTE-U[unlicensed], LAA [License Assisted Access], LWA [LTE – Wi-Fi Link Aggregation] and muLTEfire. MuLTEfire provides LTE-like performance with Wi-Fi-like simplicity.”
Robert Long, director of sales at Crown Castle International, said that regardless of the path it takes, the need for more infrastructure will continue. “By 2018, 4G data use is expected to increase by a factor of 10,” he said. “Cell phone data use will increase by a multiple of six. Add the Internet of Things, smart cities and autonomous vehicles. Providing a solution that’s sharable, whether it’s fiber, towers or small cells, if it’s sharable, it’s much more economical for the service providers.”