The company says it wants to develop a “borderless classroom” using a 5G small cell network, allowing students to connect to 5G whether they are in school or at home
Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP), a spin off from Google’s parent company Alphabet, is acquiring Dense Air Networks for an undisclosed sum, aiming to develop shared network infrastructure that operators more like a utility.
Following the acquisition Dense Air will become part of SIP’s CoFi platform, designed to “bridge the digital divide by enabling open and shared wireless networks” via public–private partnerships.
“SIP seeks to finance the deployment of broadband infrastructure through new models of public-private partnership that ensure 5G networks are inclusive, ubiquitous and can prioritise key municipal use cases, such as education. Rather than building infrastructure for infrastructure’s sake, the CoFi model recognises that collaboration with cities and their stakeholders is needed to deliver real solutions,” explained Jonathan Winer, co-CEO of SIP.
Dense Air, which builds and operates small cell networks and owns spectrum licences in markets including Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand and Portugal, seems a natural fit for the CoFi project. Describing itself as a ‘carrier or carriers’, Dense Air’s business model currently sees it act as a neutral host, providing shared wireless infrastructure to numerous operators at the same time.
“Ubiquitous connectivity is crucial for modern life,” said Winer. “By expanding internet access and opening up previously uncompetitive markets in partnership with new and existing service providers, we can give consumers more seamless and affordable coverage.”
As part of SIP’s first project with Dense Air in the US, it will use the company’s small cell expertise to help build a “borderless classroom” for students in an unnamed city. To do this, the company will partner with an as-yet unnamed city and its school district, aiming to build a private 5G network for students to use, both while at school and at home.
“The idea behind it would be to create a single wireless network that would be administered actually by the school district itself —they could set how often the kids would use it, what they could see,” said Winer, emphasising that this initial project will be very much a test bed to see if the model works. “Like all our projects at SIP, it’s about taking technology that we think can have a huge impact and proving it out. And the only way you can figure this out is you’re going to put it in the field to see what you can deliver.”
Further details of the pilot project will likely emerge early next year, with the results sure to be watched closely by the US’s largest operators.
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