The FCC’s vision of making available spectrum on a shared basis is nearing commercial reality. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service band includes 150 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band that will be available to both licensed and lightly-licensed users for applications ranging from industrial IoT to fixed wireless access and private LTE networks.
The Navy is an incumbent in the band and will continue to have priority access, but unused spectrum in the band will soon be available on shared basis. The spectrum will be managed by Spectrum Access Systems (SASs)—which will dynamically assign spectrum to users and eliminate potential interference—and an Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC)—which will detect federal radar operations and alert the SAS to reconfigure nearby CBRS devices to operate without interference to federal operations.
The FCC recently certified the ESCs of CommScope, Federated Wireless and Google, and the NTIA recently concluded CBRS lab tests for five SAS vendors, including CommScope. These announcements signal that commercial deployment of CBRS is drawing near.
Mark Gibson, Director of Business Development at CommScope, will discuss the past, present and future of CBRS during a panel at Connectivity Expo in Orlando later this month. To preview that panel, Gibson sat down with WIA to talk about how CommScope got involved in CBRS and what the shared spectrum could mean for wireless carriers, enterprises and the infrastructure industry.
How did CommScope get involved in the CBRS space and what do you offer?
I’d say we got started in TV White Spaces, where unlicensed devices were allowed to operate in the unused TV bands. The devices connected to a database, which identified vacant channels in specific locations and directed the devices where they could operate without interference. CBRS was born out of that framework.
We have been involved with CBRS on the SAS side since the beginning. We are a wave-one provider with four others on the SAS side. CommScope has a lot of products around wireless systems, including CBRS. With the recently closed acquisition of ARRIS and Ruckus, CommScope is now able to provide an end-to-end CBRS solution including SAS and devices. Ruckus has a good position in the market and has one of the first CBRS devices to be certified.
We are also building an Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) with Google, which is the sensor network that detects the operation of Navy radars. We expect to have the country covered by the end of the year, if not sooner. So we are truly an all-in-one provider of an end-to-end CBRS ecosystem, including the SAS, devices and infrastructure, and ESC.
What is the current state of CBRS?
Several paths are now coming together. After certification of the ESC and completion of SAS testing, we will be getting into the next phase soon, which will be Initial Commercial Deployment (ICD). This is where the FCC will assess and test each conditionally-approved SAS before final certification to test real-world scenarios that might not have been tested in the lab. That should occur this summer and will run for 30 days. We will submit ICD reports to the FCC who will evaluate and issue a public notice indicating we are approved for full commercial service. We expect that to occur in the fall if everything goes as we expect.
What are the use cases for CBRS?
One of things you may be hearing about at Connect (X) is that CBRS enables private LTE networks and it’s great for in-building neutral host systems. What you will get with CBRS now and hopefully in the long term is spectrum that, for the most part, is pristine. SASs will ensure no interference with incumbents and no interference into PAL from GAA. CBRS lends itself very well to private networks and there’s a lot of interest in that realm for networks in stadiums, hospitals, hotels, schools, manufacturing facilities, and all kinds of verticals. The use cases are compelling.
What are the near-term ramifications of CBRS deployments? Are they additive to existing carriers or will CBRS networks compete with existing commercial networks?
For the most part, carriers are looking at CBRS as either primary or secondary spectrum to add capacity and coverage improvement, and they have expressed interest in using this band for fixed wireless access and small cells for indoor deployments. If you have a hybrid deployment in the cellular realm, this spectrum could augment with lower-band spectrum, and Wi-Fi could provide middle-of-the-road propagation for primary coverage or for offload.
Who are the likely early winners in the race to Private LTE Networks? Enterprises, or commercial carriers seeking to offer mobile LTE services where they couldn’t before?
One of the interesting aspects of CBRS is that it tends to level the playing field since the band is brand new. Traditional wireless providers may have infrastructure already in place, but will still have to deploy CBSD devices (CBSDs). A retailer like Walmart with no infrastructure that wants to deploy an inventory management system, or a utility that wants to manage power distribution centers, substations and power generation may not have their own telecom infrastructure, but CBRS deployment should be straightforward for experienced integrators and installers. And everyone needs a SAS.
Where is the industry with equipment and devices needed for commercial CBRS deployment?
There are about two dozen manufacturers with certified CBSDs and about 10 or so manufacturers with end-use devices. There is a fairly robust ecosystem, and those that have been at this for a while, like Ruckus, Ericsson and Nokia, should be able to provide enough devices to meet the demand on day one.
How can integrators utilize CBRS to extend their managed services portfolio?
CBRS is one band in a multi-band spectrum strategy considering licensed cellular and Wi-Fi. Integrators are looking at what their customers want and how CBRS along with everything else can provide that. CBRS will be competitive to some extent with cellular. The Issue is one of coverage. CBRS has the widest channel bandwidth available. Most other bands have 2 x 15 megahertz, but CBRS has 150 megahertz if you are General Authorized Access (GAA) user and 40 megahertz if you are a Priority Access Licensee (PAL). That’s a lot more megahertz available for capacity than any other non-mmWave licensed band. For the integrator looking at all their options, CBRS is viable and useful.
How will Industrial IoT Networks benefit from CBRS solutions?
Industrial IoT is interesting from an LTE and LTE-M perspective. A lot of companies are doing IoT on Wi-Fi now and CBRS is complementary. The CBRS Alliance did a study a couple years ago about IoT applications and use cases, and they saw a huge interest in things like process monitoring and control, fault monitoring, and control of manufacturing. We have manufacturing facilities in the Dallas area where we’re going to deploy a CBSD on top of a tower and try out some of these IoT applications. We want to see what it looks like, how it works and what would be the interest.
Don’t miss Gibson’s panel “Beyond CBRS Rules: Understanding GAA and PAL Licensed Access to 3.5 GHz Mid-band Spectrum” at 3:15 on Wednesday, May 22 at Connectivity Expo. The panel is part of the “Private Enterprise LTE Networks” education track, which also will feature panels on cellular interconnect with CBRS, technology migration to LTE in broadband networks, fixed CBRS applications and the OnGo business case for critical infrastructure. You can also visit CommScope at the CBRS Alliance Pavilion and at booth 205/203 on the exhibit floor.
Visit www.connectivityexpo.com for the full list of speakers, keynotes, exhibitors and sessions.
With over 35 years of spectrum management experience, Mark Gibson is responsible for developing domestic and international business opportunities for CommScope. In addition to leading technical and business development efforts for numerous wireless and spectrum-related products and services, he has led efforts to address spectrum sharing between Federal government and commercial users. He leads CommScope’s CBRS efforts on the Spectrum Access System/Environmental Sensing Capability. He is a board member of the CBRS Alliance and an officer on the board of the Wireless Innovation Forum. He is a member of the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee, where he has also co-chaired working groups related to spectrum sharing and data exchange issues. He has led spectrum management efforts including the development of the SAS and ESC, TV White Space, spectrum sharing analysis protocols and sharing criteria, as well as development of Comsearch’s engineering services and software products. He has led efforts in working with the American Hospital Association as their technical partner for WMTS frequency coordination. He has authored several papers on spectrum sharing and relocation and has advised numerous wireless participants in their system design. He is a Life Member of IEEE.
Also published on Medium.