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Nokia, AggreGateway and a California school district closed a gap in the digital divide in the central valley of the state by building a new network and distributing hot spots to families.

The new network will provide internet access to the homes of 2,400 students using Nokia Private 4.9G/LTE Digital Automation Cloud operating in the CBRS/On-Go GAA spectrum, and equipment including Nokia FastMile 4G Gateways and Wi-Fi Beacons. The first phase of the project was completed in November with the second phase to be done this year.

Aimee Rullo, private wireless head for education at Nokia, said this network is the same concept as the projects completed last year with several Indigenous American tribes. The Standing Rock Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes used federal funding to invest in their networks while Dos Palos used federal funding to cover the cost of the hardware and installation.

“The main difference is the tribes are using awarded EBS spectrum, while the school district is using free CBRS spectrum,” she said.

Rullo said the school district selected Nokia for this project based on the company’s experience with wireless networks.

Paoze Lee, technology systems director of the Dos Palos-Oro Loma school district, said in a press release that the school district could reach only 50% of its students with distance learning during the pandemic via commercial wireless network providers.

“Working with Nokia and AggreGateway, we are taking the next steps to level the field and ensure every student has the same access to our learning facilities,” Lee said.

The school district is in the San Joaquin Valley of California in the center of the state. The school’s student population is 81% Hispanic.

Octavio Navarro, president of AggreGateway, said he grew up in a rural area and experienced the digital divide firsthand.

“Being able to implement a Nokia private wireless solution for the students has been beyond rewarding,” he said in a press release.

SEE: Verizon opens new 5G labs at Caltech and Penn State

AggreGateway is a group of network and wireless engineers who design networks for public safety, transportation, utilities, government and educational organizations. The group also provides consulting services, wireless solutions, network security and systems integration.

Matt Young, head of enterprise for North America at Nokia, said in a press release that the company’s DAC and FastMile FWA technologies will provide much-needed internet connectivity to students.

The school’s technology team will operate its new LTE network through the Nokia DAC Cloud monitoring application.The school also will provide LTE/Wi-Fi hotspots to students for use with any standard laptop or tablet.

Rullo recommended that school leaders set specific goals for extending connectivity to students and then research what type of technology is best suited for their specific school district.

“Also, don’t be afraid to try something new,” she said. “We are in the middle of a digital revolution, and with the rapid changes in technology it’s imperative we make use of innovation available today.”

CTIA’s 2021 Annual Survey of the state of 5G in the U.S. found that 5G access points and investment continues to grow. The report found that investments in licensed spectrum reached $85 billion in 2020. The $82 billion C-band auction revenue represents the largest investment in a spectrum auction to date, according to the report, which increases the total investment to more than $200 billion in payments for the spectrum needed to power wireless networks. Cell sites to provide 5G service increased to 417,215 in 2020.