The Wider View

Matthew Vartabedian, a leading wireless and telecom industry analyst, is currently Vice President of Wireless & Mobile Communications Research at iGR, where he has focused on the mobile industry for the past 20 years.

Investing in Digital America

September 24, 2021

In the coming months, the U.S. federal government will likely pass an infrastructure bill. The total amount is in flux — $1, $2, $3.5 or $4.5 trillion. The following is a short list of what seems to be some of the items common across the various iterations of the legislation:

  • More than $110 billion to rebuild, repair, and modernize roads and bridges: This could include money for fiber, cell sites (small and maybe macro), C-V2X roadside units, IoT sensors, cameras, etc.
  • $66 billion to improve Amtrak and modernizing public transit: Again, more fiber along the tracks, cellular/wireless capabilities, sensors, cameras, etc.
  • More than $7 billion for electric vehicles and charging stations. Each of those could provide cellular service across multiple bands and would be good spots for new fiber. Also, IoT sensors could also be installed.
  • More than $25 billion to upgrade airports; some of that money could go to fiber and DAS, small cells, edge compute, V2X, IoT, etc.
  • $100 billion to upgrade and build public schools: The pandemic is showing how school district are using CBRS-based FWA to provide broadband service to their communities. Schools are ideal “hubs” for fiber, cellular, etc. And while they are at, why not introduce courses that take students through the sites, so they understand how the Internet is getting to their devices? Maybe some will even want to learn how to install and/or fix those sites – or get involved in related STEM programs.
  • $55 billion to modernize drinking water and waste processing. Again, fiber, sensors, cameras, etc.
  • $48 billion to develop the American workforce – match older workers with students. They can learn from each other about how to build, fix and otherwise digitally transform America.

Don’t hold me to the numbers cited; they may change, just as the items themselves might.

My point is simply that forthcoming infrastructure investments could include – should include – digital components. As an example, most of the cost of deploying fiber is in the physical process and labor of associated with trenching and/or boring and then installing the conduit and then pulling the fiber through. The cost of making that trench a little deeper and/or the conduit a little bigger and pulling more fiber through, while not insignificant, is minor compared to the expense associated with going back in a few years’ time. Dig once, benefit for years.

 

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