ExteNet Systems is deploying a Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) network on the 3.5 GHz band for Mile High Networks, a fixed wireless broadband internet service provider that serves all of Yavapai County, Arizona. The commercial CBRS network is anticipated to be available for customers beginning Q4 2019.
The Mile High CBRS system is part of the FCC’s initial commercial deployment, which is a transitional phase as the FCC checks out the spectrum access system (SAS) providers. The deployment at Mile High makes sense because Arizona is a distance from the coast and won’t interfere with 3.5 GHz incumbent Naval radar. It also makes sense that ExteNet chose fixed wireless broadband internet service as its initial CBRS application, because it currently has 2,000 CBRS-ready wireless internet service provider sites in its portfolio.
“We are doing initial deployments in verticals, such as sporting arenas and manufacturing, but those are in the early trial stages,” Tormod Larsen, ExteNet chief technology officer, said. “Not knowing how quickly the CBRS proceeding would progress at the FCC, we could not commit to those [vertical] customers. In fixed wireless, we could, because we could use Part 90 licensing initially and then migrate them to CBRS when it was available.”
Mile High, which was operating on 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.65 GHz band, now will have access to 150 megahertz of spectrum at 3.5 GHz, tripling their available spectrum. As part of the switch over, Mile High employs SAS service from Federated Wireless.
“Besides time-to-market, CBRS delivers much-needed network capacity, speed and bandwidth to serve outdoor and indoor needs for our rural customers,” said Jason Osborne, VP of strategic solutions at ExteNet Systems.
From a business case standpoint, fixed wireless will also be the easiest market to penetrate with CBRS from a number of perspectives, according to Larsen. With additional bandwidth, the fixed wireless broadband internet service provider can either get additional revenue from customers or get additional subsidies from the federal government.
“Fixed wireless provision is an established business model,” he said. “With the additional bandwidth, the provider can add customers or increase the speeds of the existing customers.” With private LTE, on the other hand, it may be more complicated to discern the value proposition.
Nathan Fillmore, CEO at Mile High Networks, said the CBRS spectrum lowers the cost of ownership of the fixed wireless network for his company.
“This deployment will allow us to deliver reliable, high-speed internet that rivals network performances in metro areas,” he said. “We are expecting our customers to have the confidence in our network performance to work on high-bandwidth applications, whether from home or at work or for reliable HD voice and VoIP calls.”
There is still more work to be done on the CBRS initial commercial deployment. All of Mile High’s base stations need to be updated to CBRS, going from Part 90 to Part 96, and made to communicate with the SAS. And each installation must be re-certified.
“There are a lot of details behind the scenes,” Larsen said. “We are on a learning curve, especially communicating with the SAS.”
CBRS is more complex than the traditional, static spectrum allocation scheme. Because the spectrum is shared, the broadband fixed wireless user might not have the same channels one day to the next. The fixed wireless networks previously did not have handoff, but now that has changed. With CBRS, the network can use another tower, in case one tower goes down.
“It changes how you think about designing a network, but also how you configure it,” Larsen said. “You need spectrum access system (SAS) to change the network from a static mentality to a dynamic mentality.”