US National Parks are getting greenfield 5G networks

The open source 5G networks will run on CBRS spectrum

AccessParks and FreedomFi are partnering to use CBRS spectrum and open-source 5G network software to bring high-speed connectivity to hundreds of sites within the U.S. National Park system, beginning with 200 California state parks.

AccessParks, a specialized Internet Service Provider that works with the U.S. National Park Service to bring connectivity to remote locations, will utilize FreedomFi’s turnkey private LTE/5G solution, typically deployed in enterprise settings, to provide day-to-day connectivity to park visitors, as well as for more critical applications such as safety and security.

“In many of these locations, there is no existing infrastructure because there is no legacy connectivity,” Boris Renski, CEO at FreedomFi, told RCR Wireless News. “Instead of trying to put in place something outdated like 3G, the plan is to go greenfield with 5G on day one.”

He added that the pairing with AccessParks makes particular sense because the company’s approach to getting these parks connected “heavily leverages open source,” which simplifies the process of deploying 5G and which FreedomFi specializes in.

For the past two and half years, the company has been developing an open source software package called Magma to help enterprise customers more easily build small- to mid-sized private 5G networks.

“We really simplify the process for the customers, whereby we ship a customer a small network appliance and then they can buy a 5G radio from a certified vendor,” Renski said. “They take the radio, plug it into the appliance that we shipped and very quickly have a site up and running. A lot of the automation is powered by the Magma software.”

“We’ve considered a variety of software options for this network rollout, both closed source and open source,” Tim Rout, CEO at AccessParks said in a statement. “Magma has the most momentum out of all open source alternatives and it’s access agnostic architecture enables us to take advantage of the radio innovation from a variety of vendors and to stay in control of our destiny.”

One thing that makes this project unique, according to Renski, is that it is not being built as a network to exclusively for AccessParks or for the park operators to develop and sell plans to visitors, as might happen in typical private 5G network deployment.

“The idea,” he explained, “is to also get a number of mobile network operators, as well as MVNOs, to be able to roam into the network. There are very few cases where you have truly private networks with the roaming capability to the macro MVO networks, which is very much the objective here.”

Since the project started two month ago, the pair have delivered 5G connectivity to nine locations, including the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. With several sites being added every week, the current plan is to have hundreds of highly trafficked tourist locations covered by the end of 2021.

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