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.
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.”
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.
CommScope’s Ruckus CBRS portfolio and Attabotics’ 3D robotic supply chain automation system were demonstrated as part of Microsoft Azure capabilities for private LTE networks during Microsoft Ignite, the Microsoft annual gathering of technology leaders. held Nov. 4-8, 2019 in Orlando, Florida.
Ross Ortega, partner PM, Azure Networking said, “The Microsoft Azure-based private LTE solution builds on decades of Microsoft enterprise success stories. In collaborating with CommScope and Metaswitch, we see opportunity to enable IoT applications and take advantage of the security, latency and bitrates provided by private LTE networks for our mutual customers.”
CommScope’s Ruckus Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) portfolio enables enterprises to easily deploy private LTE networks to support innovative Internet of Things (IoT) applications using wireless spectrum recently made available by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Designed with enterprise IT operations in mind, this new portfolio greatly simplifies the management and deployment of a cellular network. Now, enterprise IT administrators have a new wireless tool that can be leveraged for a wide variety of applications that were not previously possible.
“We are proud that the Ruckus CBRS LTE portfolio was part of this innovative Microsoft demo at Ignite 2019,” said Joel Lindholm, vice president of CBRS Business at CommScope. “Using the end to end encryption of the LTE network, enterprise customers can feel comfortable with the secure nature of this new network. This demonstration highlights how private networks can be used by enterprise customers for automated applications such as Attabotics.”
The Ruckus CBRS portfolio uses separate dedicated spectrum from licensed cellular and Wi-Fi, thus providing cellular-like reliability, mobility, security and quality of service, but with the simplicity of Wi-Fi. Integration of the Ruckus CBRS portfolio with Microsoft Azure’s networking and edge connectivity solutions will enable enterprises to successfully address challenging and critical use cases with dedicated, secure, ultra-high-quality private LTE networks
Ever since the carriers pulled back on deploying additional DAS networks, the in-building wireless industry has been trying to break into the market for enterprises that occupy between 100,000 square feet and 500,000 square feet of space, known as the “middleprise.”
Much progress has been made. Measures have been undertaken to make these systems less expensive, less intrusive and quicker to deploy. Yet the growth expected in in-building wireless (IBW) systems has remained elusive, perhaps until now.
Yet the growth expected in IBW has remained elusive, perhaps until now.
The Citizens Broadband Radio Service at 3.5 GHz could prove to be a great enabler of private LTE systems, which give enterprises something they crave: control. Parallel to the evolution of DAS, quantum leaps have occurred in the area of evolved packet cores, the critical control element of the mobile network that enables the user’s connectivity. Instead of depending on the carriers’ cores, today an enterprise can have a dedicated core on the premises or use one in the cloud providing much of the same functionality as the traditional carriers’ core, but for a fraction of the cost and operational complexity.
I have wondered whether a company could provide service to enough in-building venues to become known as a niche wireless carrier. Is Boingo Wireless a carrier? It is, if you count its Wi-Fi subscribers. Otherwise, leasing indoor wireless infrastructure to an enterprise just makes a firm similar to a tower company.
Then I learned about Geoverse, which is owned by ATNI, a company that owns and operates mobile, fixed and cable television (CATV) providers in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. As a result of this relationship, Geoverse can leverage ATNI’s existing roaming agreements with licensed major carriers for its private LTE solutions. In addition, Geoverse’s blockchain transaction platform, known as GeoTrade, presents an opportunity for monetizing the roaming agreements between the public carrier networks and the in-building private LTE network. Geoverse has a relationship with Ruckus Networks and, eventually, will add every major indoor OEM.
Another company involved in monetizing the CBRS spectrum, Syniverse, has teamed with Ruckus Networks and Federated Wireless to develop private, high-speed and secure wireless networks. Syniverse provides the LTE core network, Ruckus Networks provides the LTE access points for the radio network, and Federated Wireless monitors and manages the spectrum.
The key to monetizing these private networks is a blockchain ledger-based billing and settlement system that allows operators manage the logging, clearing and settlement process for the commercial exchanges between parties.
The final piece of the puzzle is the availability of spectrum in the CBRS band, which uses general access licenses to quickly get frequencies into the hands of the enterprises at no cost. If you take access to frequencies, add control over the evolved packet core and the ability to monetize the system, you may just be looking at the future of enterprise in-building wireless.
I am no one to forecast how companies will attack the marketplace, but I have noticed a couple of interesting personnel changes. ExteNet, which has 2,000 CBRS-ready systems in place and can provide its own core, hired Jim Hyde, a man with a rich history on the carrier side (Western Wireless, T-Mobile UK, Ntelos). And then there is Stephen Bye, with more than 27 years of experience with wireless, cable and wireline service providers, who left C Spire to join another CBRS player, Connectivity Wireless Solutions.
Will ExteNet, Connectivity Wireless, Geoverse or Syniverse or some other company become a niche wireless carrier catering to the areas inside of buildings, while the major carriers cover the space outdoors? The market will decide, but the ingredients are there.