Tohono O’Odham Nation Brings High-Speed LTE to Tribal Residents

tohono oodham nation

TUCSON, AZ – The Tohono O’odham Utility Authority (TOUA) has partnered with Baicells Technologies to bring access to advanced broadband connectivity to tribal residents.

The reservation boundary is approximately 30 miles west of Tucson, AZ, and extends south along the border with Mexico. The Tohono O’odham Nation of roughly 28,000 members is spread across a number of remote villages where bringing access to broadband has always been a major challenge. Previously relying on basic Wi-Fi connectivity, in limited locations and with top Mbps speeds only in the single digits, the TOUA long recognized the need to overhaul and upgrade their infrastructure and so built out their network plan. In their mission to bring digital equity, they secured funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Reconnect Program, and NTIA. This funding led to the buildout of an advanced LTE network across their tribal lands using wireless network infrastructure, CPE, and support from Baicells.

Since the project’s inception in 2020, the tribe has successfully deployed a dual-band private 4G LTE network, comprising of approximately 50 base stations and looking to serve an estimated 3,000 homes across the Tohono O’odham Nation. The private network utilizes the 2.5 GHz spectrum in LTE Band 41 and continues to add capacity across the reservation using CBRS in Band 48.

“Understanding our remote location and lack of service by any existing carriers, we knew it was up to us to address this issue of broadband access; we have experience and a track record of solving these types of challenges for our communities,” said Kristan Johnson, Operations Manager for the Tohono O’odham Utility Authority. “And a private network that we can manage on our own was a great fit since we are very accustomed to operating our own infrastructure. We already do this for other key utilities like electricity and water and in today’s age, internet access is just another utility.”

With fast speeds now the norm, the Tohono O’odham Nation can utilize modern applications like video streaming and have an ability to view volumes of content like never before. The performance upgrade to connectivity has made video chats an option, bringing access to essential services and new opportunities to more residents across to the community. In practice, this has since eliminated the need for long and slow commutes previously required to make routine visits and makes connecting with family on a regular basis easier.