Identifying cellular coverage gaps and creative solutions to broaden network availability.
The Empire State Development Broadband Program Office sought an advisor to support a task force commissioned by Governor Andrew Cuomo to develop recommendations, including P3 models, that will expand cellular coverage in Upstate New York. The Governor originally proposed the task force – which consists of industry experts, community leaders, government officials, environmental representatives, and other key stakeholders – as part of the 2019 State of the State. The lack of cellular network coverage in rural areas has significant implications on economic activity, communications, and public safety. With technical and project management support from the Hayat Brown team, the Task Force reviewed existing coverage gaps, policies, and regulatory constraints to develop implementable recommendations, including P3 models and regulatory reforms, to deploy telecommunications infrastructure that will enhance cellular coverage in unserved areas upstate, including the Adirondacks and Catskills.
Hayat Brown Role:
Measure Cellular Coverage in Unserved Regions
The FCC estimated nationwide cellular coverage gaps for Mobility Fund Eligible Areas. Given the Task Force’s concern regarding the accuracy of the FCC’s nationwide estimates when applied to local areas, our team’s technical advisors measured cellular coverage along a subset of the most significant roadways in Upstate New York in the Adirondacks and Catskills through drive testing. Drive testing provided primary data for more accurate and credible identification of coverage gaps on a representative sample of key roadways in Upstate New York, which could then be extrapolated to all interstates, U.S. and state highways, and major county and local roads in the rural areas of Upstate New York. These drive test results were compared to coverage predicted by the FCC to identify uncovered areas Upstate where infrastructure investment could be targeted to eliminate coverage gaps.
Evaluate Regulatory and Environmental Policies
The Hayat Brown team reviewed regulatory and environmental policies at the state and local level and benchmarked these relative to other states. This was supplemented with a survey of carrier and tower companies to understand the regulatory process from the private sector perspective, including steps to obtain a permit, approximate timelines, and barriers associated with infrastructure deployments. Understanding these challenges helped the Task Force propose recommendations that would support consistent regulatory processes across jurisdictions and clarify locations and height limits for telecommunications infrastructure.
Estimating Coverage Costs
The Hayat Brown team and its technical advisors estimated the infrastructure cost per mile to provide reliable cellular coverage along targeted corridors where the drive tests identified coverage gaps. This cost per mile metric aligned the types of cellar infrastructure (e.g., towers and small cells) with the topography and roadways conditions. These factors were used to extrapolate costs to eliminate cellular coverage gaps all interstates, U.S. and state highways, and major county and local roads throughout Upstate New York.