Possibly one of the most anticipated events of 2019 is the completion of FCC’s Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) proceeding. Panelists discussed a number of uses in the market that may be served by licensees in the 3.5 GHz band during “CBRS: Gateway to Private LTE,” during the recent AGL SoCal Summit, in Newport Beach, California.
The service is divided into two categories: General Authorized Access, which may see limited use in the first quarter, and the Priority Access License, which will be assigned through competitive bidding. Before commercially operating, both must wait for the certification of spectrum access systems, which protect incumbent U.S. Navy radar from interference.
“This is an exciting one. The CBRS market has yet to open up and we have a lot of new people lining up with different business models. The FCC still has some work to do get this kicked off, but it will be happening soon,” Joe Madden, president, Mobile Experts, who moderated
Several opportunities will be enabled by CBRS, Randy Johnson, director of technology evolution, ExteNet Systems, including fixed wireless access, carrier aggregation, private enterprise and commercial neutral host mobility.
“Fixed wireless operators are operating under Part 90 in the 3.65 GHz band, have a natural evolution to CBRS,” Johnson said. “Operators, such as Verizon Wireless, intend to use 3.5 as a carrier aggregation band, similar to License Assisted Access [at 5 GHz]. I think we will see that happen reasonably quickly.”
CBRS will enable private LTE systems, which be used by enterprises across numerous verticals including mining, oil & gas, utility, government, manufacturing and transportation. The global Private LTE and 5G market is forecasted to grow at over 10 percent CAGR to about $3.4 billion by 2024, according to a report by Mobile Experts.
Adoption of CBRS will be seen first where LTE clearly outshines Wi-Fi in terms of mobility and security. One potential user group might be in hospitals where HIPAA requirements demand secure communications. Large seaports might be another potential market because of the need for wireless automation to save money, and a noisy RF environment that cannot be easily served with Wi-Fi.
Uses spawned by CBRS can be divided into two distinct areas: fixed and mobile, according to Kishore Raja, vice president, engineering strategic programs, Boingo Wireless. For mobile use, a single neutral-host small cell can provide low-cost coverage and capacity for multiple carriers, rather than several carrier-specific small cells.
Fixed use, which will be available earlier than mobile, includes backhaul in places where the terrain is rough and provision of internet service.
Neutral Host Networks
But the market that really has wireless industry salivating is the ability to deploy one set of radios and support all carriers in the neutral host, in-building space. “It will come of age sometime down the road. A number of things need to fall into place, but it is a very high potential, high-volume opportunity,” Johnson said.
Property developers, building owners, multi-family dwellings and commercial venues are all target markets for neutral-host radio systems, according to John Shubin, director, business development, Advanced RF Technologies,
“Something that I am seeing almost every day is Millennials, who demand a lot from their phones that want to live in the Class A high rises in the city,” Shubin said. “Two years ago, property owners didn’t know what they were doing. Now, they are getting pretty savvy. They want to attract Millennials with coverage from all four carriers but now they are looking to CBRS to manage the property.”
One national real estate developer was already applied to test CBRS on one of its properties. LTE is more robust than Wi-Fi and can be used to connect HVAC, access control systems and video surveillance. “With the application on residents’ phones, the network knows when they pull up and allows them to enter the garage, adjusts their units’ temperature, among other personalized services,” Shubin said.
Wireless Internet Service Providers
Wireless internet service providers, which primarily use 5 GHz and to a lesser extent 900 MHz, will be using the CBRS channels, according to Ken Garnett, chief technology officer, Cal.net, a rural WISP.
“Being able take advantage of the increased power and better propagation, we can service people that we never could before and provide them better speeds,” Garnett said. “The economics are tremendous. We can use fewer towers and reach more people with less centralize resources.”
From the installers point of view, LTE has a streamlined provisioning process for fixed connections, which cuts deployment time by 30 percent.
“We can move into new spaces that we had not thought of before. We are providing fixed wireless broadband, but with CBRS we can utilize the same tower assets to provide other services, such as industrial IoT and smart agriculture,” Garnett said.
The wireless industry is hungry for more mid-band spectrum. It is hoping that CBRS, with its licensed shared spectrum, will quickly provide it with solutions to address coverage issues that it has not found licensed spectrum or shared spectrum. But it does not mean CBRS will replace Wi-Fi, Raja said.
“No one size fits all. Before CBRS, there were only two indoor technologies, Wi-Fi and DAS. CBRS is yet another tool in the toolbox to allow neutral host service to be deployed,” Raja said. “I don’t think CBRS will affect Wi-Fi at all. Look at all the persons connected in arenas. It’s all Wi-Fi. There are 8 billion devices on Wi-Fi, a market economy of $800 Billion Wi-Fi. CBRS just adds to those numbers.”