Frequently Asked Questions
What is Alaska Tribal Spectrum?
ATS is a Tribally-controlled nonprofit that in July 2020 had a primary mission to ensure that the FCC-offered 2.5 GHz spectrum was reserved for Tribal benefit before the FCC application window closed. In this mission, ATS was highly successful and, in just 2 months, ATS rallied with the support of 85 Tribal members to reserve spectrum over a large area of Alaska. This was possible because ATS understood the unique communication challenges for rural Alaskan Tribes and created a quick, simple way for Tribes to participate as a consortium and apply collectively instead of 85 individual efforts.
The current mission of ATS is to:
- Leverage the FCC-awarded Tribal 2.5GHz spectrum to obtain last mile wireless infrastructure funding to create and expand a statewide Alaska Tribal Network (ATN) that will deliver sustainable, affordable “Broadband For All” everywhere in the State of Alaska.
- Support efforts to deliver additional middle mile capacity to rural Alaska.
What are the benefits of being an Alaska Tribal Spectrum member?
What is the Alaska Tribal Network and what are the benefits for our Tribe?
What is the ATS plan to make broadband affordable everywhere in rural Alaska via the ATN?
The reality is that in rural Alaska, approximately 60,000 people have no access to fiber backhaul and they won’t anytime in the near future. The ATS mission is to create a statewide Alaska Tribal Network (ATN) using the Tribal 2.5 GHz spectrum. This wireless last mile will connect to whatever middle mile is available. For now, that is new satellite capabilities capable of generating broadband service over the ATN. In the future when fiber arrives, the ATN will connect to it to provide additional capabilities and drive costs downward. The Tribe also benefits in many ways by installing the ATN last mile in their community.
New satellites can deliver a very satisfying consumer solution in rural Alaska. There are two types: Geostationary High Throughput satellites (GEO – HTS), and Low Earth Orbit satellites (LEO) from OneWeb and Starlink. Combining HTS GEO with new LEO technology could provide affordable broadband to every underserved (Tribal) community last mile wireless network in Alaska in the very near future. It can also enable current generations to have broadband while they await the time and expense of getting fiber in the future.
We applied for our own 2.5 GHz spectrum. What is the benefit for our community to join ATS?
If you are not already an ATS member, and you own or have applied for 2.5 GHz spectrum, you have the opportunity to join ATS as a managed member.
ATS applies for government funding on behalf of its member communities to construct last mile infrastructure for rural Alaskans throughout the state. With our membership’s large collective 2.5 GHz wireless spectrum footprint, we are proposing to install a statewide Alaska Tribal Network (ATN) that creates the opportunity to deliver affordable broadband everywhere, maximizing revenue for each member Tribe.
ATS has over 100 members and is growing as more Tribes join in this collective effort to bring affordable broadband to each member community now. ATS also makes things much easier by creating consortium grant applications and managing the 2.5 GHz spectrum to maximize the benefit to every member.
Becoming a managed member simply means you will agree to let your spectrum be managed by ATS in conjunction with other ATS spectrum to expand the ATN. As a member, you are also eligible to participate in the makeup of the Policy Board that governs the network policies for the statewide ATN. You will receive all of the benefits and opportunities for income for the use of your spectrum. You will give up no rights. You will still be the license owner of your spectrum.
What are the 2.5 GHz licenses used for?
The FCC application window was a unique opportunity for Tribal Organizations across Alaska to directly access unassigned spectrum over their Tribal lands, subject to buildout requirements. The 2.5 GHz band is suitable for both mobile coverage and fixed point-to-point uses to enable state-of-the-art broadband services, including 5G. The spectrum can be used for last mile wireless networks like the Alaska Tribal Network to distribute broadband connections to the homes and businesses in your community.
The spectrum that was made available in this window is a portion of the 2.5 GHz band, consisting of three different channels: one 49.5 megahertz channel, one 50.5 megahertz channel, and one 17.5 megahertz channel. We applied for all available spectrum across all three channels where available.
You can watch this short video on how 2.5GHz broadband works from the FCC.
Why is the 2.5 GHz spectrum valuable for the Tribal entities?
If you live in a remote rural community, your individual spectrum isn’t of interest to a large provider because there are not enough subscribers for a business case. There is no easy way for an individual rural Tribe to generate revenue from the use of their spectrum. Instead, as a collective with ATS, the spectrum has considerable value. Many Tribes joined with ATS and combined their 2.5 GHz spectrum as ATS managed members to extend the ATN footprint. With member Tribes having the majority of the state’s 2.5 GHZ spectrum, we can create a potentially statewide Alaska Tribal Network. In the ATN model, the services can be affordable, and ATS members will earn revenue because it is being used—and used a lot. Additionally, as a large network, the ATN will allow all service providers in the state to participate as VSPs on the network.
How does ATS help provide last mile wireless network equipment and installations for our community?
Why is it important to install ATN standards-based compatible equipment for the last mile?
Mobility and E911 in your community
There are many wireless network solutions that only offer broadband to the home with no plans for future mobility over wireless. Choosing a solution that just solves broadband now, which will require refactoring in the future to provide mobility, is not an ideal choice. The ATN, however, represents a forward-looking design that plans for future mobility now. It is not meant to just deliver broadband to your home. Let’s face it, you can’t take a wire with you when you leave your house, but on the last mile wireless ATN network, your entire community is energized, not just your home.
The ATN design offers an array of possible equipment configurations that will work for future mobility and broadband over your normal phone. The ATN broadband network equipment selections can be made from a slate of compatible choices and different manufacturers. These manufacturers have been vetted as capable providers to support a future wireless 5G-capable LTE phone network that can use the same 2.5 GHz spectrum you already have. This means E911 over your cell phone can be enabled everywhere in your community. Future mobility also means that when people roam in any community in Alaska that is on the ATN, the ATN spectrum owner in that community is paid when the internet is accessed by that phone.
Is there any cost to our Tribal Organization to join the Alaska Tribal Spectrum Consortium?
How is governance conducted for Alaska Tribal Spectrum?
The Alaska Tribal Spectrum will manage the member spectrum with the input of all of its Tribal members. The policies of the Alaska Tribal Network are maintained by the ATS Policy Board. The decisions about how any funded infrastructure is applied in each individual village is governed by Tribal leadership in each member community.
Does installing the Alaska Tribal Network (ATN) in a community add increased responsibility or cost for the Tribe to manage and operate the network?
No. Most tribes will choose to receive affordable service and have the network management and operations done on their behalf without their involvement. ATS has partnered with OptimERA xG to manage the statewide network operations for this Tribally-governed network. OptimERA xG will also offer service packages as a Virtual Service Provider (VSP) on the ATN. People in the community can simply sign up for service with OptimERA xG. In the future, other providers may also offer services as VSPs on the tribal network. Any questions about your cell phone or data services will be directed to whatever provider you choose for your service. OptimERA xG will provide technical support for the installed equipment.
ATS is not a service provider but will govern the standards for services to be delivered to ensure they conform to the highest quality. ATS will work with each tribe to ensure their needs are being met by the providers on the network and that revenue is tracked and flows to each member in proportion to the use of their tribal spectrum in their area. ATS will work with the tribal members to develop digital equity plans that include funding for additional local support and coordination.