By Amado Royola

Director of Sales, Government and Vertical Markets, Telrad

Wharton County Electric Cooperative in southeast Texas used WiMAX 802.16 wireless broadband technology for four years until a competitor began crowding the spectrum, making it a challenge to offer quality and higher throughputs to its wireless internet customers.

WCEC decided subscribers could benefit from a better solution, so it looked at a few options and settled on Telrad’s 4G/LTE (long term evolution) dual-mode radios. “We understood that the upfront investment was slightly higher, but the quality of the equipment is much improved. The range and capacity are outstanding, which are critical as we upgrade and grow our network,” said Keith Beal, manager of information technology and metering for WCEC.

The challenge with the WiFi-based networks is that they require additional equipment to meet increased demands, but they suffer from increased interference between the towers because of the unlicensed nature of the space. Operators are finding that the cost savings realized with radio price points are mitigated as connectivity fails and more radios are added to the already crowded spectrum. Migrating to LTE resolves the interference issue because the 3.65 GHz spectrum is standardized.

“With our trial, we were able to deliver higher throughput per user, more capacity and greater range,” says Beal. “Those qualities more than offset the original outlay of the equipment.”

As a result of its successful trial, WCEC is entering Phase II growth, adding more LTE radios across the network and anticipates completing its network migration to LTE in 2018.

“Our customers do not lose service during our buildout because we can continue using the WiMAX spectrum right up until we turn on LTE,” says Beal, whose network extends about 500 square miles.