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.
The Citizens Broadband Radio Service at 3.5 GHz is ushering in a new approach to in-building connectivity, allowing venues, enterprises and building owners to control their wireless service through dedicated private LTE systems. One company, Geoverse, is taking it one step further serving as an “inside-out” mobile operator.
Geoverse is owned by ATNI, a public company that has been owning and operating mobile, fixed, and CATV providers for over 30 years in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. As a result of this relationship, Geoverse can leverage all the existing roaming agreements ATNI has established with major carriers for their Private LTE solutions. In addition, Geoverse’s patented platform known as GeoTrade presents a real opportunity for monetizing the roaming agreements between the public carrier networks and the in-building Private LTE network. The integrated roaming and monetization capabilities are key differentiators when compared to other in-building solutions.
“When I heard that enterprises were going to be able to build their own private LTE systems, that’s when I realized we were really on to something,” Carl Gunell, Geoverse co-founder and SVP of Marketing and Business Development, told AGL eDigest. “We thought there might be 10,000 or more private LTE systems in the United States some day and they will need a commercial relationship between the network and the carrier.”
Cellular was built for outdoor use, but 80 percent of the time wireless calls are initiated indoors. Cell towers, however, do not penetrate the walls and windows of office buildings very well. DAS deployments in buildings have only proved to be cost effective in the largest venues and buildings. Many companies have tried different methods to make in-building wireless less expensive and to speed up the process of securing a signal source from the carriers.
“We are moving away from the traditional DAS model that required a lot of carrier coordination,” Gunell said. “Now with CBRS being commercialized, we put in less costly infrastructure that will be in the control of the building owner or enterprise without sacrificing any capability in terms of functionality such as roaming.”
Ericsson’s Radio Dot System provides in-building coverage and capacity for Geoverse’s enterprise private LTE offering. Geoverse and RF Connect have partnered to streamline the design, network engineering, and deployment of some early projects. However, Geoverse has an open solution architecture and will also use other vendors, VAR’s and integrators as the needs demand. Additionally, Geoverse has its own in-house LTE evolved packet core called GeoCore. GeoCore is the network element that enables the seamless roaming between the Private LTE networks and Public Carrier Networks.
“We look at CBRS, not as a new technology, but as a new paradigm. What is really rule-breaking about the service is it gives the control over the network to the enterprise,” Gunell said. “With CBRS, cellular communications is no longer the private domain of the major mobile operators. If a building wants better connectivity, it is on their budget not the carriers’ budgets. It’s on their timeline not the carriers’ timelines. The enterprise doesn’t have to beg for a signal source.”
Geoverse’s full-building solution when used alongside IoT sensors enables a ‘smart building’ can help a building owner or enterprise identify inefficient systems and processes, monitoring temperature, lighting, room use and desk use.
“The landlord owns all the data concerning how many people are using each small cell in the building and at what times they occupy those spaces. They have visibility into network operations and performance,” Gunell said.
They can also use the same CBRS network as the common platform for all kinds of connectivity, providing hubs and gateways to connect legacy devices.
When Geoverse and the enterprise build a Private LTE network inside of the building, that network can offer additional coverage and capacity for the carriers. Carriers want to be assured of call quality and the GeoTrade platform assures this metric via Service Level Agreements.
“We can guarantee AT&T that we have five-nines capability in the building, leading to satisfied users,” Gunell said. “Because the GeoCore EPC can be deployed inside the Building, you get a 5G-like experience with a 4G LTE Advanced Network, with low latency and high reliability.”