This article originally ran in Network Builder Reports.
Verizon says its CBRS small cells will be smaller and lighter than those it has deployed in other spectrum bands. The carrier plans to supplement its outdoor small cell network with CBRS small cells, and says the new equipment may be easier to permit and install than existing hardware.
Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is expected to launch later this year, when the Federal Communications Commission allows wireless network operators to transmit in the spectrum bands between 3550 and 3700 GHz. Operators will be able to use part of this spectrum without paying for a license, but they will have to pay for software that assigns frequency bands and prevents interference.
Verizon says its first use of this spectrum will be to offload network traffic from other spectrum bands. For that it will need outdoor CBRS small cells, and smartphones that can send and receive in the CBRS bands.
Bill Stone, Verizon’s VP for technology development and planning, described the CBRS small cells that Verizon is testing as “a good product for mounting and concealing on poles.” He said he never likes to underestimate the challenges of site acquisition, but he is encouraged by the fact that the CBRS small cells are more compact and less powerful than the small cells Verizon is deploying for lower spectrum bands. Equipment size, weight and power output are usually important to the jurisdictions that issue permits to companies that deploy wireless access points in public spaces.
Stone said the CBRS small cells will include the radio and antenna in one form factor. The baseband processor can also be integrated into the same hardware, but Stone said that he expects most deployments to use a separate baseband unit. He said the BBU can be mounted at the base of a pole or tower, or even further away.
Verizon has not yet released pictures of the new small cells, but it has been testing outdoor small cells made by both Ericsson and Nokia.
Nokia’s FlexiZone multiband outdoor base transceiver station is currently part of Verizon’s CBRS tests in Irving, Texas. The BTS pairs with Nokia’s TD-LTE CBRS RF module, which has a maximum RF power output of 4 watts (2 watts at each transmit port output.)
At the same site, Ericsson is testing a system that aggregates its outdoor and indoor CBRS small cells. The solution uses 4×4 multiple-input, multiple-output antenna elements and 4×20 megahertz carrier aggregation.
Stone said the first deployments are likely to be in areas with relatively high network traffic. He said the network will be capable of moving smartphones onto the CBRS spectrum when they come within range of the small cells, if the phones include CBRS modems.
The CBRS small cells won’t be able to help the network much until a significant number of people upgrade to smartphones that have CBRS modems. Verizon has said it will add these phones to its line-up this year, but hasn’t said which phones those will be.
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Martha DeGrasse is the Publisher of Network Builder Reports. She has worked in business news media for 16 years, most recently as an editor for RCR Wireless News. She is the author of 20 in-depth reports and 2,500 articles on telecom companies and wireless technologies. Follower her on Twitter : @mardegrasse