Cellcom, the wireless subsidiary of telecommunications provider Nsight, has officially launched a 5G network in northeastern Wisconsin, covering customers in parts of the Brown, Shawano and Langlade counties.
Cellcom CEO Brighid Riordan has been vocal about the need to provide better connectivity to rural communities — likely due to the areas that Cellcom serves. Once the COVID-19 pandemic made it abundantly clear that those living in areas like rural Wisconsin and Michigan — Cellcom’s major markets — lacked adequate connectivity, local and federal governments raced to address the issue in the best way they knew how: throwing money at it.
In a June 2021 interview with RCR Wireless News, Riordan expressed mixed feelings about this approach, commenting that while capital expenditures for network build-outs have indeed been a “huge stumbling block,” there are new challenges that come with a funding and competitive environment that she describes as “a little bit more Wild West.”
She elaborated that all of the money flowing into broadband networks — both wired and wireless — makes the situation almost like a puzzle, with the challenge being to figure out where the money is coming from, how it can be used and what part it will play in Nsight’s decisions. Riordan said that Nsight believes that fiber is a prominent piece of that puzzle, especially given the federal funding that is lowering the cost barriers to fiber deployment.
“If you asked any of us at our company two, three, four years ago, ‘How is broadband going to be deployed to rural areas?’, we would say, ‘Wireless. It’s going to be wireless from here on out. … That has changed with the infusion of capital [from the federal government.]” Riordan expresses some reservations about whether all of America can actually be connected via fiber-to-the-home and how long that would take, but due to the influx of funding, in what she calls a “leapfrog moment,” that has become at least a possibility.
For now, though, when it comes to mobile cellular coverage for Cellcom customers, Riordan has stated that the 5G launch in some northeastern Wisconsin counties “is just the beginning, adding that “Cellcom is committed to building [its] network to serve not only cities, but towns and rural communities throughout Wisconsin.”
The rollout of its 5G network will continue across Brown, Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Shawano throughout 2022, said the carrier.