SBA Communications joined a group of existing investors, which includes American Tower, in funding CBRS pioneer Federated Wireless. The $51 million in Series C funding will enable the company to further accelerate availability and adoption of shared spectrum CBRS services by wireless carriers, cable companies, utilities and enterprises seeking to augment existing and 5G wireless services and private LTE.
Other existing investors include Allied Minds, GIC (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund), in addition to new investor Pennant Investors.
“We are extremely pleased with the way Federated Wireless’ momentum in the CBRS industry has accelerated since our initial investment and are proud to have been able to contribute to it in a material way,” said Joe Pignato, co-CEO of Allied Minds. “The contributions that Federated Wireless has made in bringing CBRS to this point are significant and demonstrate its leadership in the space.”
Federated’s Spectrum Access System (SAS) Cloud protects the existing Navy radar users from interference, which allows dynamic and secure access to the 3.5 GHz band by commercial users. SAS, which is also provided by Google and CommScope, is the bedrock of the CBRS.
Working to meet the growing demand for wireless access to mobile data, Federated Wireless this week announced that it has completed the roll-out of the world’s first in-production environmental sensing capability (ESC) network. This will enable initial commercial deployment (ICD) of CBRS services across the US, and follows closely on the heels of FCC certification of the Federated Wireless ESC received on April 29, 2019.
“Today’s announcement marks an historic milestone in the CBRS market, one that the entire industry has been working toward since 2012,” said Chris DePuy, founder and technology analyst at 650 Group. “The promise of CBRS is now a reality and will bring much-needed wireless performance and capacity increases to a broad range of users nationwide.”
Shared spectrum is a disruptive technology that delivers the best attributes of traditional wireless and Wi-Fi, with lower fixed cost, higher quality and greater efficiency and scale. The 150 megahertz available in the 3.5Ghz CBRS band is equivalent to that owned by the largest national wireless carriers and is divided into three tiers of service dedicated to:
The newly-completed Federated Wireless ESC network helps ensure that incumbent transmissions are interference-free, while the Federated Wireless Spectrum Controller dynamically allocates spectrum to users in all three tiers. The ESC network is made up of dedicated, purpose-built sensors placed along US coastlines and designed to accurately and rapidly detect federal incumbent transmissions in the 3.5 GHz band. The Federated Wireless network is deployed with full redundancy, making it highly reliable and available.
Founded in 2012, Federated Wireless has long led the industry in development of shared spectrum CBRS capabilities, taking a lead role in the formation of the CBRS Alliance, being the first to complete testing of its ESC network and having multiple customers ready to deliver CBRS services using its SAS solution. The company’s partner ecosystem includes more than 40 device manufacturers and edge partners, all of which are dedicated to collaboration to advance development and proliferation of CBRS services.
Federated Wireless’ customer base includes more than 25 companies spanning the telecommunications, energy, hospitality, education, retail, office space, municipal and residential verticals, with a wide range of use cases ranging from network densification and mobile offload to Private LTE and Industrial IoT.
The CBRS market is in a state of rapid and dynamic growth, with certification and full automation planned later this year and licensed CBRS spectrum expected to be made available in early 2020. Future developments are anticipated to include rapid CBRS device development and deployment, and expansion into the 6GHz band for unlicensed access to further expand national wireless capacity and throughput.
“I am extremely pleased with what we have been able to achieve in such a short time, and am eager to begin the next phase of CBRS service development and expansion,” said Iyad Tarazi, President and CEO of Federated Wireless. “Our technological innovation over the past seven years has positioned us well to continue to lead this industry, while our expanding partner ecosystem and customer base ensure that we have the support we need to do so while continuing to address their most pressing business needs.”
Demand for companies with experience in providing wireless solutions for the 3.5 GHz spectrum is heating up as this spectrum band looks increasingly set to become the global preferred spectrum for 5G. The band has been touted worldwide as a strong contender for 5G, with the GSMA last year describing it as offering the “ideal opportunity” to meet the increasing demands for data and coverage. The European Commission has marked the 3.5 GHz frequency as a priority for 5G, and major operators have already announced trials in 2018 using the spectrum.
For Alpha Wireless, an antenna solutions provider with more than 10 years of experience in the 3.5 GHz spectrum, the road ahead looks bright – and busy.
“The 3.5 GHz spectrum offers a significantly lower cost of ownership in many jurisdictions compared to typical mobile wireless spectrum, so it’s a logical place to launch 5G,” Alpha Wireless CEO and Chairman Fergal Lawlor said. “With rural subscriber densities, low-cost spectrum is essential for profitable service offering. In urban settings, 3.5 GHz relatively, short propagation characteristics makes it ideally suited for densification and fill-in without interfering with adjacent access points.
“Alpha Wireless has spent the last decade developing and supplying products for 3.5 GHz so we’re well equipped to provide exactly what mobile operators need with 5G around the corner,” he added.
In the United States alone, an EJL Wireless Research report recently showed that there was an 84 percent jump in shipments of outdoor small cell antennas in 2017, with Alpha Wireless leading the pack as the top vendor.
With a 75-percent increase forecast for the current year, Lawlor says its’ clear that demand is far from slowing down.
“Alpha Wireless’ 3.5 GHz product range covers all types of applications from standard macro coverage to small cell for densification in urban environments. Our solution set includes innovations in beamforming to enhance performance and all-in-one small cells to provide concealment and speed installation. We know we’re in a great position to give the market what it needs,” Lawlor said. “More than that, we’re also looking at what the market will need in the future. At Alpha Wireless, innovation is a key focus. We’re constantly looking to learn more about the challenges arising in the industry, so we can extend our product range and provide even better solutions for our customers.”
The FCC has provided a report to Congress analyzing the results of the 2015 rule changes which created CBRS band and on proposals that identify additional spectrum bands that can be shared between incumbent uses and new licensed and unlicensed services.
We’ve said for years, “shared spectrum for all” and have seen great success with CBRS. Because of that, we firmly believe there are many other spectrum bands that are ideal candidates for spectrum sharing. That’s why our team prepared a detailed proposal on this very topic which we presented to the FCC in September following their call for comments.
However, before we focus on which new bands should be opened for shared use, let’s consider the tremendously positive effects sharing in the CBRS band has yielded:
CBRS frequencies are an integral component of 5G wireless technology worldwide, and by adopting and rapidly implementing a sharing framework for the CBRS, the Commission has maintained U.S. leadership in the global race to 5G, rather than waiting over a decade for legacy “clear and auction” approaches to realign use of the band.
The Commission’s rules establishing the CBRS have fostered the development of a band that is a success on the verge of happening, with full commercialization imminent and immense demand evident for access to CBRS spectrum across the country and across industry sectors.
CBRS will provide robust broadband availability where it does not exist today and will generate material economic benefits.
Commercial deployment of CBRS will prove the effectiveness and efficiency of the innovative tools the Commission used to create the CBRS opportunity – an opportunity that can be replicated in other bands.
The spectrum landscape is replete with opportunities for sharing among incumbent and newly authorized licensed and unlicensed users, a move that will increase the efficiency and intensive use of scarce spectrum resources.
The work undertaken by the Commission and industry to create success in the CBRS band serves as a roadmap for the use of spectrum sharing regimes in additional bands, enabling commercial access to previously unavailable spectrum resources. In our proposal, we identified the 3.7-4.2 GHz, 3.45-3.55 GHz, 3.1-3.45 GHz, 5.925 GHz-7.125 GHz, 37 GHz, 26 GHz, 70/80 GHz and 4.9 GHz bands as candidates for sharing. Given the rapid demand for more wireless bandwidth and increased demands on scarce spectrum resources we urged the Commission and Congress to fully embrace sharing as a comprehensive approach to improve spectrum management policy and to act quickly in enacting sharing in these candidate bands. Just as with CBRS, sharing can unlock the true potential of these other bands significantly increasing utilization while reliably ensuring protection of incumbent and priority uses.
The Commission took a commendable step in creating CBRS, an action that will bear significant fruit for consumers in the very near term. We wish the FCC luck in their report to Congress and hope that they will take our notes into consideration for leveraging other bands in a similar fashion to CBRS.
Jennifer McCarthy is responsible for the company’s regulatory and government affairs agenda. Jennifer is a telecommunications regulatory attorney with over 25 years of experience in the wireless sector having held a variety of government affairs, business development, and operations positions for several of the industry’s leading technology innovators. Most recently, Jennifer was with MVP Capital, working with wireless spectrum license holders, TV and radio station owners, and other online content service providers on a variety of M&A projects. Prior to that, Jennifer was Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Operations for NextWave Wireless Inc. and part of the executive management team of MediaFLO USA Inc., a subsidiary of QUALCOMM Incorporated, where she identified, purchased, and cleared the TV Channel 55 spectrum used to deploy the nation’s first network dedicated to the reception of mobile television programming and other multimedia services. She was also the head of QUALCOMM’s international government affairs team responsible for regulatory and international trade strategy at the International Telecommunications Union and related organizations. Early in her career, she worked with Freedom Technologies, Inc., a boutique Washington, D.C.-based telecommunications consulting firm and its associated law firm. Ms. McCarthy has a B.A. in political science from Yale University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. She is a member of both the California and Washington, DC Bars.
The FCC is planning on unveiling its final(?) plan to promoting wireless investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band at its November open meeting. The original plan for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service at 3.5 GHz, which came out back in 2015 and called for three-tiered shared access between incumbents, Priority Access Licenses (PALs) and General Authorized Access (GAA) users, soon got swept up in 5G-mania with carriers eyeballing it as part of their mid-band spectrum strategy.
The FCC is expected to adopt limited changes to the rules governing PALs to make them more useful for 5G, as well as more valuable at auction. Most importantly, it would increase the size of PAL license areas from census tracts to counties. Making the licenses renewable and extending their terms to 10 years will also make them more carrier-friendly. Establishing seven nationwide PALs with bidding credits for rural and Tribal entities will also establish the importance of the band in 5G.
“Our 3.5 GHz proposal … reflects the Commission’s aim of freeing up mid-band spectrum for 5G and other flexible uses,” Chairman Pail told the Americas Spectrum Management Conference in Washington DC. “This order makes targeted changes to our rules to promote investment and innovation in this important band. For example, by allowing providers to renew 3.5 GHz licenses, we’ll substantially increase their incentives to develop 5G services using this spectrum.”
The Order would also permit partitioning and disaggregation of areas within PALs and facilitate transmission over wider channels without significant power reductions.
The Commission maintained its in-band spectrum aggregation limit of 40 megahertz (in other words of four PALs) of the possible 70 megahertz per license area at any given point in time. Over half of the band—a minimum of 80 megahertz—is reserved for GAA use, which is licensed by rule. GAA users can operate throughout the entire 150 megahertz of the 3.5 GHz band on any frequencies not in use by PALs but may not interfere with them.
In another speech also in front of the Americas Spectrum Management Conference, FCC Comm. Michael O’Rielly said the previous licensing structure of the Priority Access Licenses was flawed because of the growth of mobile and the emergence of 5G.
“On that note, it’s clear that U.S. wireless providers and the international community have targeted the mid bands for 5G, with the CBRS band right in the bullseye,” O’Rielly said. “The United States must be at the forefront to determine and harmonize bands and establish standards so that our industries benefit. This is particularly true for the 3.5 GHz band, which is seen as the key global roaming band for 5G.”
3.5 GHz Band Could be First Home for 5G
The wireless industry is ready to move forward to deploy fixed or nomadic wireless in the 3.5 GHz band, Tony Sabatino, SABRE Industries, said in an interview with Clayton Funk, MVP Capital, at the AGL Local Summit in Kansas City last week. 5G as a mobility service will not come out in the 2020-2022 timeframe.
“CBRS Band will be the first launching point for high-speed fixed access in rural areas,” Sabatino said. “We are working in a rural area where we will help build out a fixed wireless solution, 6 – 8 megabits down. It is an exciting project with a particular utility.”
To get the true benefits of 5G, however, a lot of spectrum is needed, said Sabatino. Maybe 100 megahertz of spectrum. As a matter of course, he suggests that the FCC expand the CBRS up the dial to include the 4.2 GHz band, which would add 700 megahertz.
“You need a big swath of spectrum. [3.5-4.2 GHz] is the most interesting piece of spectrum out there right now. It is a good band for transmission. If you want to get households involved. If you go over 18 feet, you can use high-gain antennas,” he said.
Sabatino believes building and venue owners will be interested in using CBRS to provide but fixed data to their tenants or patrons.
“Owners of multi-dwelling units don’t have to let Verizon or Comcast and AT&T into their buildings to offer service,” he said. “The building owner can provide service to the whole building, including IPTV, internet, home phone and other wireless services to their tenants, connectivity.”
CBRS may even provide competition to the carriers as utilities will have a great opportunity to mount antennas on all their vertical real estate, he added.
ExteNet Systems, Inland Cellular Prepare CBRS-Ready Fixed Wireless Service
Another company that is moving forward on CBRS is ExteNet Systems, which has announced a field trial of a FCC Part 96-ready, CBRS LTE fixed wireless network with Inland Cellular, which serves southeastern Washington and north central Idaho. ExteNet initiated the field trial for Inland in September 2018 and commercial service rollout is currently targeted for early 2019.
“At Inland Cellular we are constantly evaluating ways to advance our customer experience and provide our customer base with enhanced service offerings. Applying the CBRS use case to our existing infrastructure seemed like a natural progression for us. We are excited to work with ExteNet on this initial trial and eventual commercial CBRS service rollout for our customers,” said Nathan Weis, CEO of Inland Cellular in a press release.
ExteNet’s virtualized LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC) solution, bundled with Nokia’s Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, has served as the foundation for Inland’s 4G LTE service throughout its coverage area since 2016. Inland is now leveraging its existing mobile infrastructure to conduct a field trial with ExteNet on the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum to improve customer experience and meet demand connectivity and increased network capacity.
“For many rural service providers, finding a modern solution approach that is financially viable, operationally manageable and still carrier-grade, is a major challenge and often the barrier to rolling out the latest services,” said Jason Osborne, vice president of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives for ExteNet Systems.
ExteNet’s LTE service offering is an alternative to more traditional fiber or coaxial fixed broadband solutions, especially in expansive geographies or smaller communities. The 3GPP-compliant platform can serve as the foundation for enhanced communication services including LTE mobility, roaming, voice over LTE (VoLTE) and wireless enterprise while providing broadband speeds to amplify user experience.