Illinois Electric Cooperative (IEC), an Illinois-based electric service provider, has selected Ericsson, through its strategic partnership with XtremeLTE, to modernize networks in rural Pike County, Ill. The project involves Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) delivered through the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum.

The new partnership, which is part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF-II), will support IEC’s efforts to improve capacity, coverage and user experience for its customers. The project deployed in the fourth quarter of 2021.

 “IEC is taking a major step towards expanding connectivity and broadband services in areas where they are unavailable,” said Matt Haverfield, Network Operations Manager for IEC. “The selection of Ericsson, through their partnership with XtremeLTE, allows us to create private networks with superior uplink and downlink performance, and create an infrastructure that is affordable and enables reliable and quality communication services.” 

 IEC sought vendors that could comply with the FCC’s challenging Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF-II) Above-Baseline performance tier on a massive scale. After an extensive evaluation process, IEC through Vantage Point Solutions (a third-party independent engineering consultant firm) conducted a field test at XtremeLTE’s facility in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, whereby the operator successfully demonstrated Ericsson FWA equipment’s capability in delivering a minimum 100 Mbps downlink and 20 Mbps uplink. 

 “CAF-II performance requirements are stringent, so a robust evaluation process was in the best interest of IEC’s long-term success,” says Jay Briscoe, engineering staff at Vantage Point Solutions. “Our team has enjoyed working with IEC on their FWA deployment in rural Illinois, and this process was an extension of that support. Vantage Point Solutions congratulates Ericsson and XtremeLTE on their selection.

Under the new agreement, XtremeLTE will be providing Ericsson Radio System which includes future-proof product lines supporting CBRS, as well as the Educational Broadcast Services and Private LTE capabilities that were previously dependent on Wi-Fi technology. 

The partnership will also bring Ericsson’s AIR 6488 Advanced Antenna System (AAS) solution to more than 50 sites across Illinois. AAS enables state-of-the-art beamforming and Massive MIMO, powerful tools for fostering large-scale deployments in existing and future mobile networks. Through these solutions, IEC will achieve significant performance gains, with the capability to upgrade to 5G new radio when needed. 

 “CBRS in the 3.5GHz band will have big implications for building private LTE networks and in improving 4G and 5G service offerings,” said Bill Chotiner, vice president and CTO for Customer Unit Regional Carriers, Ericsson North America. “This partnership allows us to continue bringing ultra-high speed broadband to rural communities in America, and it comes at a critical time where service providers like IEC are looking to scale their offerings, launch more use cases and protect existing services.”

Ericsson and the XtremeLTE strategic partnership was first announced in October 2019, and is focused on assisting the Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and the fixed wireless industry in obtaining and deploying Ericsson’s carrier-class LTE equipment. XtremeLTE creates a foundation for enabling full, end-to-end broadband deployment, where WISPs or FWA providers will be able to reach more customers with higher speeds, and wide-area coverage and capacity. 

XtremeLTE is proud and excited to support IEC with their CAF-II Fixed Wireless network project in rural Illinois. This project aligns perfectly with XtremeLTE’s mission of bringing fast reliable broadband services to rural communities that need immediate access to the Internet. XtremeLTE currently supports over 40 FWA networks across the USA. Through XtremeLTE, these networks can provide service to their communities in months or even weeks, compared to waiting years for fiber. 

David Tews, president of Xtreme LTE commented, “The combination of Ericsson’s technology and XtremeLTE’s unique ability to deliver quickly from our warehouse in Pennsylvania, has made it possible for us to deploy carrier grade networks in as little as 30 days. This rapid deployment solution helps our rural communities support the demand for high-speed Internet today.”