The use cases for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) are plentiful and will come in two waves, Tormod Larsen, ExteNet chief technology officer, said during his keynote add at last week’s AGL Chicago Summit. Fixed wireless and private LTE applications will be first and applications requiring consumer handsets will come next.
“In the early going, fixed wireless and private LTE will drive deployment of CBRS. Some of the driving forces will be that it is more secure and more predictable than Wi-Fi with lower latency than traditional cellular networks,” Larsen said. “In the second phase, network owners and operators can become neutral host providers and add additional carriers to their networks.”
Wave 1: Fixed Wireless Providers, Private LTE
Pertaining to CBRS, ExteNet is already out of the gate with has more than 2,000 sites under contract. One of those customers is Cal.net, a fixed wireless provider. It is building 350 sites for them.
“It is the easiest for fixed wireless to take advantage of CBRS, with systems deployed at 3.65 GHz. CBRS, at 3.5 GHz, expands the amount of spectrum that is available to them, providing them higher bandwidth and greater capacity,” Larsen said.
Private LTE will inhabit the sweet spot between Wi-Fi and carrier coverage, offering such applications as ticketing and point of sale devices, digital signage, security, body cams, two-way radio, etc.
A number of products have been launched recently to support private LTE. Late last month, Cradlepoint announced the availability of its gigabit-class private LTE edge routers for wide-area LAN use cases. Ruckus Networks launched a CBRS private LTE portfolio, consisting access points and associated cloud services. Syniverse and Affirmed Networks have launched a cloud-based virtual network solution, which enables enterprises to deploy IoT services over CBRS.
Wave 2: Carrier Services
CBRS allows ExteNet the possibility of having multiple carriers roam on the same network and serve as a more cost-effective way to build neutral host networks, which requires a base of traditional mobile devices with CBRS chips. For applications that serve the general public, it will take longer to get an installed base of CBRS-enabled radios.
“How can we leverage CBRS at ExteNet in our networks that we have already deployed? From a tower perspective, this is like another tenant,” Larsen said. “It creates the opportunity to add additional tenants in distributed networks and small cells. There are a lot of different applications that are driving that, including IoT, cameras, augmented reality and virtual reality. When carriers and other customers see the value, they will pay for CBRS.”
The services may come into use by operators that want to be in the mobile space, but don’t have spectrum, like cable companies or mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) with heavy traffic in a certain area and want to avoid roaming charges. Traditional carriers may add use spectrum as a way to perform carrier aggregation to expand capacity.
“The divide between public and private networks is converging, meaning that if you are a mobile operator you can tap in to serving private enterprise,” Larsen said. “Private LTE allows anyone to provide a network that the carriers can roam on. That is the convergence.”
CBRS: The Spectrum In-between
The spectrum used by CBRS can be viewed as “in-between” from two perspectives, Larsen said. On the spectrum scale, CBRS’s 3.5 GHz location is in between the licensed spectrum, which lies from 800 MHz to 2.1 GHz, and the unlicensed spectrum, which is located at 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. Also, from a use case perspective, the shared spectrum used by CBRS shares the qualities of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum.
“Shared spectrum is ‘in-between’ and that creates some opportunities for applications that need a little more of that licensed flair to it but with the economics and flexibility of unlicensed spectrum,” Larsen said.