The deployment process prioritizes partnership with the tribes. A significant amount of time and effort is devoted to developing trust and an understanding of the joint project. Once relationship is established, Mural pursues FCC licensing and the installation of infrastructure simultaneously.

Step 1: Discussion with Tribe

Mural listens to tribal representatives about the needs of the community and explains what services we offer. If a collaboration makes sense, Mural submits an official proposal to the tribal council. If approved, the planning phase begins.

Step 2: Spectrum Survey

Once the geographic service area (GSA) is determined, Mural searches FCC records to determine if there are unlicensed channels within the 2.5 GHz band in that GSA to apply for.

Step 3: Site Survey for LTE Infrastructure

Our engineers visit the site and make preliminary plans for building the necessary components for a fixed-LTE network. Equipment can be mounted on existing low-profile infrastructure such as water towers. Also, line-of-sight is not as necessary as it is with traditional point-to-point wireless links.

Step 4: Backhaul Identification

Mural identifies possible partners such as schools, libraries and local internet service providers that can provide backhaul for the LTE network. As needed, Mural can also help negotiate contract terms.

Step 5: Applying for Spectrum License

Working with the tribe, Mural gathers the information necessary to apply for an FCC license:  spectrum study, site survey, demonstrated need by the tribe, and the letters of support or sponsorship from educational institutions, policymakers and community leaders. The tribal council then reviews and approves the official application and Mural submits it to the FCC.

Step 6: Build and Test Network

With the help of partners, the LTE equipment is installed. Mural engineers will then initiate the first end-to-end connections and ensure the system is working. Mural will then train local technicians how to operate, manage, and troubleshoot the system.

Step 7: Broader Deployment

Mural provides the tribe with the modem/routers that will transform the LTE signal into Wi-Fi in people’s homes. Trained tribal staff will then be able to expand service locally as they see fit.

Example Deployment

Mural collaborated with the Havasupai Tribal Council to bring streaming internet into the homes of teachers and students in one of the most remote communities in the continental United States.  There were three strands of this deployment: community partnership, FCC licensing and technical deployment.  The timeline is as follows:

Each phase of the network was completed within days once appropriate permissions were obtained from the FCC and the Havasupai Tribal Council. The major delays were due to FCC licensing. Our previous experience with the FCC’s Special Temporary Applications (STA) predicted that applications would be approved or denied within a few weeks. However, special circumstances delayed the process for four months. We do not anticipate this being a problem in the future due to the new EBS licensing rules that the FCC is considering.

It was a technical success. The strength and effectiveness of the LTE network was tested in the whole town. The network was found to have strong enough LTE signal such that every home could have access to streaming video if equipped with the right CPE.  The center of town received broadband speeds from the LTE antenna two miles away. The signal reached north of the town to Lower Navajo Falls, near the spillover campgrounds. Unfortunately, insufficient signal was available further up the trail.

Future Deployments

Mural Net has developed a fast and affordable process that can provide high speed internet to the homes of Native students on reservations. We utilize existing infrastructure, the 2.5GHz band going unused on most tribal lands and equipment and labor funded by donations so that trusted tribal institutions can control, distribute and maintain the LTE networks. Capital costs are low – for $10k, 20 households can be connected.

In order to streamline deployment, significant efforts should be made in regard to shaping FCC licensing rules of the 2.5 GHz spectrum. Our current method of obtaining FCC licenses slows the overall process but the FCC is considering some changes that could greatly benefit tribes. Please learn more about the FCC opening up the licensing of EBS spectrum by clicking here.