Fixed wireless or fiber? Why not both?

NextLink CSO Claude Aiken discusses the rise of fixed wireless access, the need to automate and simplify broadband provisioning, and how state broadband offices fare when it comes to communication with ISPs.

Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief

June 5, 2024

Providing rural broadband is a very local and challenging business, according to NextLink Chief Strategy Officer Claude Aiken.

Aiken, who joined the Light Reading podcast after speaking at the Network X Americas conference last month, said his company can't afford to be biased toward any particular access technology because of the communities it services. "We use whatever tool can make sense for the scenario," he said. 

NextLink offers fixed wireless access and fiber to the home, depending on the infrastructure available, as it expands to serve customers in 12 states by the end of this year. Using federal programs to promote broadband access, Aiken said NextLink has grown steadily and aims to provide the right service for the communities needing connectivity.

That means being careful to favor high-quality connections because the homes and businesses are so spread out. "With an urban area where you've got a relatively mature infrastructure, everyone's pretty well packed in. So, you know, you've got a couple, couple of service calls and your tech is hitting – maybe driving a mile or two – three or four service calls in a day," Aiken said. "Our folks may be driving 100 miles between service calls. So it is just a different world when you're talking about rural."

With that in mind, Aiken said NextLink is looking at AI solutions to help improve the experience of rural broadband customers, taking some guesswork out of their home network setups and reducing the number of times technicians need to visit.

In this podcast, Aiken discusses the rise of fixed wireless access, the need to automate and simplify broadband provisioning, and how the state broadband offices fare when it comes to communication with ISPs. He underscored the importance of community leaders keeping their elected officials aware of their needs as federal programs fund more broadband buildouts. Aiken urged listeners: "Let your both local and state representatives know where your needs are and what your preferences are so that they can best represent you at the local, state and federal levels in terms of overall plans."

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Network X

About the Author(s)

Phil Harvey

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Phil Harvey has been a Light Reading writer and editor for more than 18 years combined. He began his second tour as the site's chief editor in April 2020.

His interest in speed and scale means he often covers optical networking and the foundational technologies powering the modern Internet.

Harvey covered networking, Internet infrastructure and dot-com mania in the late 90s for Silicon Valley magazines like UPSIDE and Red Herring before joining Light Reading (for the first time) in late 2000.

After moving to the Republic of Texas, Harvey spent eight years as a contributing tech writer for D CEO magazine, producing columns about tech advances in everything from supercomputing to cellphone recycling.

Harvey is an avid photographer and camera collector – if you accept that compulsive shopping and "collecting" are the same.

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