After the FCC certified the environmental sensing capability of several spectrum access system (SAS) providers, the Citizens Broadband Radio Service market continues to evolve. For example, Cambium Networks, a wireless networking provider, unveiled this week a fixed wireless broadband solution, known as the PMP 450, which enables service providers to extend connectivity using a dynamic spectrum sharing system.
Last March, Federated Wireless signed a partnership to provide SAS service to Cambium Networks’ fixed wireless broadband customers, leveraging CBRS to enhance existing networks and introduce new fixed wireless broadband services for residential, enterprise, government and industrial networking applications.
Additionally, this week, Amazon.com Service filed an application with the FCC for a six-month special temporary authority (STA) license to CBRS technologies in Sunnyvale, California. It plans to operate 25 base stations and 50 mobile units in the 3650-3700 MHz portion of the band to analyze CBRS devices and software under development to support communications requirements and applications.
Back in May, Ericsson partnered with Verizon, Qualcomm and Federated Wireless to test of 4G LTE technology over CBRS on Verizon’s live commercial network. Ericsson provided the Ericsson Radio DOT system for indoor and Radio 2208 for outdoor for the test, which took place in Florida using a combination of licensed AWS and 700 MHz spectrum aggregated with 50 megahertz of CBRS Band 48 spectrum. Using multiple antennas, 256 QAM, and carrier aggregation across shared and licensed spectrum, the test recorded peak speeds of 790 megabits per second (Mbps).
ExteNet Systems is one of the companies that is locked and loaded, waiting for the go ahead from the FCC. It has deployed between 1,000 to 2,000 sites that are CBRS-ready. Some operators are waiting for CBRS and others are operating under Part 90. When CBRS is turned on, the Part 90 users will be able to upgrade their service to CBRS and access much more spectrum.
Tormod Larsen, ExteNet chief technology officer, told AGL eDigest that the number of handsets in subscribers’ hands equipped with CBRS frequencies directly affects the initial applications in the CBRS market. Fixed wireless and private LTE will drive the market initially, because they don’t rely on the public to buy new phones. The next application that Larsen referenced is multiple system operators, which build additional mobile networks for new subscribers.
“The majority of early adopters of CBRS will fall into the fixed wireless category, because it will take some time for the bands to populate enough consumer handsets. Some carriers will have private LTE as an additional service on the fixed wireless networks,” Larsen said.
Traditional mobile network operators, which use CBRS for mobile offload, and neutral host providers, such as ExteNet, both will require a high-percentage of devices in the ecosystem.
GAA: The Sweet Spot of CBRS
When the PAL licenses are auctioned off, the carriers will use them to build out mid-band portion of their 5G network, which will mean more space will be rented on various forms of wireless infrastructure. But that is not what excites Larsen, who believes GAA licenses have the potential to what make CBRS a zone that can serve a broader range of customers.
“With the number of carriers dwindling down to three or three and a half carriers and knowing their ARPU is flat, we need to bring in additional customers and revenue streams to continue with our exponential growth deploying and densifying networks. Diversification is good for the ecosystem,” he said.
Micro-networks could be deployed for local IoT applications for a number of vertical markets, according to Larsen, including municipalities, utilities, building owners and enterprises, which are not served by the carriers.
“You can build micro-networks and lay in different services on them and different customers on them,” he said. “On top of that you build a network of networks. That is what I am excited about. The underlying business of how these networks are funded and operated combined with the need for densification and intelligence on the edge of the network excites me more than the carriers getting more mid-band spectrum.”
More Steps Before CBRS Becomes Reality
The approval of ESC is a step on the way for Federated Wireless, Google, CommScope to provide the spectrum access system service. The industry is now waiting for the FCC to okay initial commercial deployments, which will feature prototypes and still have a number of limitations, and then the go-ahead for full commercial deployments.
Private LTE will be rolled out using the GAA licenses, while some of the carriers are looking at CBRS for mobile offload using the PALs, which will be auctioned off in the first half of 2020.
“So we are close to the finish line of the FCC’s process,” Larsen said. “The real impact will be when the FCC says it is open for commercial deployment. That is when the flood gates will open.”