Las Vegas is home to more than 650,000 residents and 42 million visitors each year, but a substantial portion of the residential population does not have reliable access to broadband Internet. With 20 percent of residents lacking crucial connectivity, city leaders set out to eliminate its digital divide and enhance its image as a tech hub on par with Silicon Valley.
Michael Sherwood, chief innovation officer for the City of Las Vegas, and Chris Craig, deputy technology director, lead the city’s efforts to address its digital divide. Their focus on expanding access to broadband was accelerated by the increase in remote work and school brought on by COVID-19 last year. The city estimated about 30,000 kids did not have access to high-speed internet during the pandemic. In addition to highlighting the connectivity needs of a large portion of the city’s residents, the pandemic also hit Las Vegas’ tourism- and hospitality-driven economy hard, causing median incomes to plummet and poverty rates to increase.
Sherwood and Craig wanted to address the urgent connectivity needs of residents, particularly students, in Las Vegas while also paving the way for progress and new opportunities made possible by technology.
“We want to be known across the world as the entertainment capital, but we also want to be known as a technology epicenter where we have the right ecosystem to bring business and people together to create great opportunities for the future,” said Sherwood. “Wireless is one of the keystones that is going to let us build the city of the future. With additional federal dollars coming through, we’re looking to expand this network into education, public safety, homelessness, and a wide variety of other applications to help improve our communities.”
The city teamed up with Terranet Communications, which provides LTE and 5G-ready private broadband networks, and Baicells to deploy wireless technology aimed at improving internet access across the city, attracting high-tech businesses to the area and moving forward on its goal to become a smart city by 2025. Founded in 2014, Baicells provides 4G LTE and 5G New Radio access solutions in markets around the world. The company has deployed more than 750 private LTE networks in 64 countries, including more than 7,000 base stations and more than 220,000 customer premises equipment (CPE) installations. The company’s product lineup includes outdoor base stations, indoor base stations, indoor and outdoor CPE, and power backup solutions.
Las Vegas city departments cooperated to identify students and families in need and worked to provide them with the Baicells Atom Indoor CPE. Meanwhile, the city installed 15 Nova 436Q LTE base stations atop community centers in underserved areas across Las Vegas. The project, called Advanced Connectivity for Community and Economic Development (ACCED), which relies on Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) shared spectrum, was able to complete full proof-of-concept and deploy the hardware within 45 days.
The CPE equipment was pre-programmed by the city to make it easy for families to deploy by simply plugging it into an outlet and placing it near a window. The configuration of the private LTE network allows the school district to retain control of network usage, ensuring that the network is being used for educational purposes. Students connect directly to schoolwork and are unable to use their network connections to stream movies or play video games.
A four-part plan foresees expanding the network across the entire city and potentially into neighboring cities in the future, enabling improved services in other areas including law enforcement, telehealth and internet of things infrastructure.
“Setting up a private LTE network in Las Vegas was no small task. Our plug– and– play equipment made it possible for us to set up a proof-of-concept project in 45 days, and that was crucial to getting the network off the ground,” said Bob Stone, Director of Carrier Solutions at Baicells North America. “Terranet Communications was vital in making this happen alongside Baicells and we’re very excited to help close the digital divide and get the Las Vegas community the internet connectivity it deserves.”