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Tag Archives: CBRS

FCC Concludes CBRS Spectrum Auction

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Let the Innovation Begin!

The FCC’s auction of Priority Access Licenses (PAL) in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which began July 23, ended yesterday raising $4.5 billion in bids. The auction offered 22,631 licenses in the 3550-3650 MHz band, which was the largest number of spectrum licenses ever put on the block in an FCC auction. These 70 megahertz of licensed spectrum may serve a mix of uses, from  mid-band capacity for the carriers’ deployment of 5G to private wireless systems used by enterprises and municipalities.

“Ericsson stands ready to support these CBRS networks with its outdoor micro radio, outdoor massive MIMO radio, indoor Radio Dot, and our domain coordinator software fully supporting the PAL frequencies.” Says Paul Challoner VP network product solutions.

Bidders won 20,625 of the 22,631 available licenses, or more than 91.1percent. The auction was a success, according FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who said the demand for the licenses resulted from reforms made to the rules for the 3.5 GHz band, which were spearheaded by FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. Dave Wright, head of the CBRS Alliance also applauded the results of the auction.

“Whether judged by traditional metrics such as total auction proceeds and price/MHz/Pop, or by non-traditional metrics such as the number and diversity of bidders, the demand for rural as well as metro licenses, and the overall number of licenses awarded – one has to conclude that Auction 105 far exceeded expectations,” Wright said. “This is further confirmation of the value of this shared band and is the last component to be put into service, enabling the full realization and potential of the 3-Tier spectrum sharing model.”

Spectrum Will Enable Smaller, Rural Operators

Although it is too early to know the winners, the auction will most likely enable new market entrants, including smaller and rural operators, to build low-cost carrier-grade networks, which will lead to hundreds of new networks, according to a new report from Colorado-based cooperative CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange, which examines how the CBRS band could change the broadband industry.

“We think that operators can build a high-quality network by acquiring a small amount of licensed spectrum,” according to the report. “Having the ability to toggle between licensed and unlicensed channels allows operators to maintain high throughput speeds. For example, when data traffic levels are high, operators can use their licensed spectrum as an overflow channel and when data traffic is light, they can use the lower-cost unlicensed channel.”

The owners of PALs in the CBRS band will mix with the users of the general authorized access (GAA) licenses to create to create new business models with new market players. Some of the possible bidders in the auction were Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, fiber supplier Corning, John Deere and universities, according to Cobank.

“For rural America, John Deere stands out for its investments in agricultural technologies,” the report said. “Deere’s interest in buying spectrum may signal its intent to become a network operator where it bundles high-speed data connectivity with farming equipment. After all, the company’s investments in precision agriculture, etc. won’t be fully realized until access to high speed data networks broadens in rural America.”

The most likely purchasers of the PALs were mobile network operators looking to supplement their other spectrum holdings, cable multiple-system operators (MSOs), existing CBRS-based wireless internet service providers (WISPs), enterprises, local governments, telcos and investors who see the opportunity to obtain CBRS spectrum and then subdivide it into smaller parcels for use by smaller enterprises and entities, according to Iain Gillott, founder and president of iGR, a market strategy consultancy, in an article published by AGL eDigest.

“It is this last group that is particularly interesting,” Gillott wrote. “Because PALs are at the county level, the chances of an enterprise being able to afford a PAL is unlikely, unless it has significant spectrum needs across the entire area. But a larger enterprise/investor could buy one or more PALs in a given area and then make the spectrum available to a single commercial building owner or single warehouse.

“For example, imagine one of the major public cloud providers obtaining PALs across the United State and then making the spectrum available to their cloud customers for internet of things (IoT) applications,” he added.

Detailed auction results, including the names of Auction 105 winning bidders, will be released in a few days. For more information, visit: www.fcc.gov/auction/105.

Excited to be in CBRS, SQUAN Joins Alliance

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

SQUAN, which builds indoor and outdoor DAS networks, 4G nodes, 5G nodes, towers for carriers and cable operators, as well as wireline operators, has announced its commitment to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), becoming a member of the CBRS Alliance, which supports the development of the 3.5 GHz band.

“We can now support CBRS deployment for the mobile network operators,” Anand Gandhi, chief technology officer, SQUAN, told AGL eDigest. “In addition, we believe CBRS will become an even bigger enterprise play, including Private LTE networks. Since we have the know-how to build indoor and outdoor DAS, it will be a smooth transition for us, as well as supporting the wireless and wireline operators.”

Gandhi said CBRS is a natural fit for SQUAN because of its experience in designing, building and maintaining DAS systems using the cellular spectrum. CBRS offers new avenues into the enterprise space for his company’s networks, which he thinks will take off.

“Previously, the enterprise depended on the operator for the signal, now CBRS is allowing the enterprise to be the driving force for the deployment of DAS networks. The enterprises we have talked to find this very interesting. Everything is starting to come together,” Gandhi said.

While there is plenty of potential and a ready ecosystem of OnGo products in the waiting, these are early days for CBRS. Prioritized Access Licenses have yet to be auctioned off (Auction date set for June 25).

“Currently we are in the education process with the enterprises,” Gandhi said. “There is a lot of interest, but the deployments will come in due time. The IT department has traditionally handled all the enterprise’s needs, so we must convince them that, with CBRS, we can design, integrate and maintain the system.”

In five to 10 years, Gandhi envisions new structures being built without copper, where all voice and data in the building runs on a Private LTE network. “Think of the cost and maintenance savings in not wiring all of those buildings,” he said.

In the meantime, the CBRS community is huddling up, creating partnerships and preparing for the future.

“All the players in the CBRS Alliance are going to be the leaders when CBRS goes to the next level,” Gandhi said. “There are multiple equipment vendors in the Alliance that we want to be paired with.” SQUAN also wants to cement partnerships with the carriers to deploy their CBRS DAS networks.

First and foremost, Gandhi is focusing on making sure his team is educated on CBRS and that his organization has the bandwidth to dedicate to CBRS.

Dynamic Spectrum Sharing in 3.5 GHz Band is a Go; Where too Next?

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

The final hurdle was removed by the FCC as it certified four Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators, paving the way for full commercial operations in the 3.5 GHz band, according to Public Notice DA 20-110. OnGo Networks using Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum can be deployed anywhere in the country now. Previously, OnGo networks could only be deployed far from the coasts under an order known as the Initial Commercial Deployment, a transitional phase that allowed the FCC to further vet the effectiveness of the SAS administrators.

To ensure that the Department of Defense (DOD) has continued access to the band for its Navy radar, Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) networks were set up along the U.S. coast. The ESC networks inform the SAS administrators — CommScope, Federated Wireless, and Google — to activate a protection zone and dynamically reassign users in the area to other parts of the band, when the radar systems are activated.

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) said that dynamic spectrum sharing, also known as automatic frequency coordination, will not only make CBRS possible in the 3.5 GHz band but also the use of 5G in other bands.

“As we automate frequency coordination and, thereby, lower transaction costs, use spectrum more efficiently, speed time to market, protect incumbents from interference with certainty, and generally expand the supply of wireless connectivity that is fast becoming, like electricity, a critical input for most other industries and economic activity,” DSA said in a white paper.

The FCC is considering using automatic frequency coordination to facilitate shared access by unlicensed, licensed and lightly-licensed users in such bands as: 6 GHz, 3.7-4.2 GHz and 37-37.6 GHz.

The evolution of automated frequency coordination is not over. DSA’s report discusses emerging technology that may benefit AFC systems, such as real-world GIS data (e.g., terrain, clutter, building heights and materials); real-time spectrum sensing data; sophisticated propagation and interference modeling; cloud-based database services; and blockchain technology.

Political Cooperation a Necessity for CBRS

As well as latest technology, the CBRS initiative involved public/private partnerships between industry and government organizations. Federal agencies including the FCC, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), and Department of Defense, along with the Wireless Innovation Forum and the 159 members of the CBRS Alliance.

“NTIA’s groundbreaking engineering work and close collaboration with the FCC, DOD and industry played a critical role in opening up the 3.5 GHz CBRS band for next-generation wireless services,” said Douglas Kinkoph of the NTIA.

Prior to commercial availability, the 3.5 GHz CBRS band was used primarily by the DoD, mostly for shipborne radar systems. The ESC networks inform the SAS administrators to activate a protection zone and dynamically reassign users in the area to other parts of the band, thus protecting the incumbent’s use of the spectrum while maximizing availability of CBRS spectrum across coastal areas.

“The authorization of full commercial deployments in the CBRS band is a significant milestone in our nation’s management and utilization of a vital resource, the radio frequency spectrum,” said Dana Deasy, Chief Information Officer for the DoD. “The Defense Department worked closely with our federal partners at the NTIA and FCC, and with industry, to ensure that our mission critical operations would be protected while enabling new commercial uses. Collectively, we were able to creatively address the engineering and security challenges associated with military and commercial spectrum sharing. We look to build upon those successes going forward. Additionally, I would like to thank the men and women in DoD who have diligently worked to make today possible.”

What Does the Future of CBRS Priority Access Licenses Look Like?

By Iain Gillott, contributing editor

Gillott

The FCC auction for Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) Priority Access Licenses (PALs) holds opportunity for mobile network and cable system operators, wireless internet service providers and many others.

Now that the 3.5-GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum has officially been made available as part of the Initial Commercial Deployments (ICDs), the next major step for the spectrum is the Priority Access Licenses (PALs) auction in June 2020. The FCC schedule calls for these auctions to start on June 25, 2020 — although, as with most things related to the FCC and auctions, this may slip a little.

To recap, seven 10-megahertz-wide PALs will be available in each county across the United States. One bidder may acquire as many as four PALs. The total CBRS spectrum band is 150 megahertz of 3.5-GHz — when the PALs are not in use or if the PALs in a particular county are not sold, the spectrum is available for GAA (General Authorized Access). Thus, if the PALs are not sold or are underused, the spectrum does not lie fallow and can be used by the community.

Who is likely to buy PALs? How will the spectrum be used? And what equipment will be needed?

Let’s address the last question first: what network equipment will be needed to use a CBRS PAL? The answer is simple: the same equipment as is used for the CBRS GAA. Any OnGo equipment will be able to access the whole CBRS band, both GAA and PAL. Each CBRS radio is connected to a SAS (Spectrum Access System) that manages each radio in the band and ensures there is no interference. If a PAL is not being used or is unassigned, the SAS manages the use of that band by other CBRS radios. In addition, the smartphones and mobile devices that have access to CBRS (and there are now many) will also be able to use the PALs.

What will the demand for PALs be?

The answer to this question has an element of “It depends.” The variable is really the C-Band spectrum. Because CBRS and C-Band are both mid-band spectrum (the two are both between 3.5 and 3.7 GHz), demand is high among the mobile network operators (MNOs) — mid-band spectrum has been identified globally as a 5G wireless communications band.
Depending on what rules the FCC decides on for the C-Band spectrum, this spectrum will either be part of a private sale or a public auction. If the private sale route is taken, then those interested will most likely be able to get access to the spectrum before the PAL auctions. This would then satisfy some of the need for mid-band spectrum and would therefore deflate the demand for the PALs.

Conversely, if the C-Band goes for public auction, this will most likely not take place until late 2021 (unless another auction is moved) or later. In this case, the demand for CBRS PALs will be high, simply because this is the first chance to access licensed mid-band spectrum.

Who is most likely to buy a PAL?

PALs are most likely to be in demand by the following:
·      Mobile network operators, who will view this as an opportunity to obtain up to 40 megahertz of mid-band spectrum to supplement their other spectrum holdings
·      Cable multiple-system operators (MSOs), which have been much discussed as having potential to acquire PALs
·      Existing CBRS-based wireless internet service providers (WISPs), which have been grandfathered into the current rules, but that may see this as an opportunity to lock in more spectrum
·      Enterprises, local governments and others that want to obtain spectrum for a specific area
·      Telcos that do not currently have wireless licenses and that view CBRS as an opportunity to enter the market
·      Investors who see the opportunity to obtain CBRS spectrum and then subdivide it into smaller parcels for use by smaller enterprises and entities.

It is this last group that is particularly interesting. Because PALs are at the county level, the chances of an enterprise being able to afford a PAL is unlikely, unless it has significant spectrum needs across the entire area. But a larger enterprise/investor could buy one or more PALs in a given area and then make the spectrum available to a single commercial building owner or single warehouse. For example, imagine one of the major public cloud providers obtaining PALs across the United State and then making the spectrum available to their cloud customers for intenet of things (IoT) applications.

How will the spectrum be used?

As with the GAA, the opportunities for PALs are literally endless. But a few major opportunities are being discussed:
·      MNOs simply use the PALs to supplement the existing cellular bands, including with carrier aggregation.
·      Cable MSOs could use PALs to extend their cable networks (adding “homes passed”) and provide internet service where they currently have no cable plant. The cable MSOs could also use the licenses to provide dedicated mobile services.
·      Larger nationwide enterprises could buy a PAL in each county (or in major metro areas) to provided private mobile services to their mobile employees using dedicated spectrum (and therefore not dependent on availability of GAA).
·      PALs can also support private LTE applications and services, just as the GAA can, but providing dedicated spectrum to the owner to provide a guaranteed level of service.


Iain Gillott is the founder and president of iGR, a market strategy consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile communications industry. The company researches and analyzes the effect new wireless and mobile technologies will have on the industry, on vendors’ competitive positioning and on its clients’ strategic business plans. Visit www.igr-inc.com.

CBRS Is Here! CBRS Is Here!

By Iain Gillott, contributing editor

Gillott

It seems like it has taken forever, but the FCC has finally approved the start of the initial commercial Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) deployments. For those in the industry who have been working on CBRS, it literally has been years of work. There are some happy people in the OnGo Alliance right now. In fact, the original proposal for the shared spectrum dates to 2010, and the FCC’s original proposed rulemaking was issued in December 2012. No one can accuse the FCC of rushing things.

We at iGR have been preparing CBRS deployment forecasts for the last couple of years. We had to keep updating the timeframes as the launch was delayed again … and again … and again. Obviously, this was frustrating for us, but worse for companies that depend on the commercial availability for revenue.

But one especially important development has resulted from the delays: There are now more consumer smartphones available that support the new CBRS band. If CBRS had been launched earlier in 2019 (or even the end of 2018), the devices available for use would have been limited to MiFi routers and embedded modules. This summer, smartphones appeared from Samsung, LG and others.

And on Sept. 12, Apple announced the iPhone 11. Although most people noted the lack of 5G support (not surprising considering the recent switch from Intel to Qualcomm chipsets), the important feature of the new phones is the inclusion of support for Band 48 (3.5 GHz CBRS). In fact, you have to buy model A2111 to get CBRS, but this appears to be the only model available in the United States.

The availability of smartphones from Apple, Samsung, LG and others means that consumers have a wide range of choices for CBRS devices, and the base of potential users will increase far more quickly. Simply put, as consumers upgrade their smartphones, they are more likely to obtain a CBRS-capable device. Someone buying an older model will not have access to the new band.

For the companies, buildings, enterprises, cable operators and mobile operators, the availability of consumer devices means that CBRS can be used more quickly. For example, if a mobile network operator were to deploy CBRS using carrier aggregation to increase capacity in certain areas, subscribers using a new Samsung/LG/Apple/etc. would benefit immediately. And every time a new smartphone is sold, the number of potential users increases. If CBRS had been launched earlier this year, this would not be the case.

iGR has updated its CBRS market forecasts and has included a total addressable market (TAM) forecast for commercial buildings split by vertical industry. We will have more work on CBRS in the near future. CBRS presents a great opportunity for the entire wireless industry, and now, with the availability of consumer devices from major brands, that opportunity will be easier to realize.


Iain Gillott is the founder and president of iGR, a market strategy consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile communications industry. The company researches and analyzes the effect new wireless and mobile technologies will have on the industry, on vendors’ competitive positioning and on its clients’ strategic business plans. Visit www.igr-inc.com.