CBRS has enlivened an entire ecosystem. Big-named companies offering related devices, products. Services ranging from fixed deployments for rural broadband coverage to leveraging lower MVNO costs and geospatial and cloud services.
Big-named stakeholders have been waiting on the sidelines with a CBRS strategy in place for some time. This includes but is not limited to Nokia, Google and Charter Communications. Little has been shared about exactly how these companies plan to leverage their expertise. Some wonder where they fit or will create new opportunities within the broader wireless ecosystem.
Nokia has been one of earlier partners of CBRS Alliance. They are actively working towards the commercialization of shared spectrum band. The company has been commercializing its product line in readiness for mass deployment. They achieved a milestone when it became one of the first vendors to complete FCC certification of its CBRS product line. The Nokia Flexi Zone is a small cell for offloading traffic from macro networks. The certification includes device testing of an access points or base stations. Ensuring a Citizens Broadband Radio Service Device (CBSD) correctly communicates with a Spectrum Access System (SAS). The FCC certified devices were also the first to attain OnGo Certification from the CBRS Alliance.
“U.S. companies need secure networks for the growing data requirements. A result of modernization, automation and remote devices. On top of this, exponential Big Data growth lies ahead, especially in the Industry 4.0 era. CBRS is an innovative way to use spectrum and promises the most efficient use of scarce spectrum for both operators and enterprises. And, it is almost open for commercial business,” wrote Chris Stark in a recent blog post . Stark is Head of Strategy and Business Development at Nokia and Chair for the CBRS Alliance.
Unlike existing cellular networks, CBRS will consist of densely packed radios. From multiple providers all sharing the same spectrum, to some cases the same network. The existing network tools and services are insufficient to manage the needs for rapid and cost-effective network planning, algorithmic solutions for network coexistence, and powering the core for network sharing.
CBRS, will also require accurate nationwide geospatial data to drive decisions. Decisions on propagation modeling, network optimization, and interference management. The CBRS, network operation is dependent on the cloud. These solutions need to operate at scale so that critical components remain available no matter how large the network becomes.
Google is bringing to market a suite of cloud-based products and services. Starting with Google’s Spectrum Access System (SAS), which controls fundamental access to CBRS. The SAS is purpose-built to support dense networks across operators. To scale on-demand – from a small in-building network to the largest nationwide deployment. Google offers operators the ability to conduct accurate network planning from a browser. By integrating with Google’s geospatial data, operators will be able to run advanced propagation models in the Google Cloud. Operators will use the same geographic data and machine learning algorithms that feed Google Maps, Street View, and Google Earth and create a highly accurate geospatial picture for better propagation modeling and optimized SAS channel assignment.
Charter Communication (Charter) will use the CBRS spectrum to extend their reach in rural markets from the edge of their cable plant. They have been testing CBRS radios on its cable plant with dual SIM devices. It allows a customer to use its wireless MVNO, which rides on Verizon’s network. Or alternately, use Charter’s network, whichever is best from an economic standpoint. Analyst models assume that cable companies like Charter may be able to reduce its MVNO costs by roughly two-thirds over the next several years.
Charter plans to leverage the CBRS band to deliver a bundle of data, voice and video services at the edges of its wired HFC networks. Charter’s Senior Vice President Craig Cowden stated that the fixed wireless use case represents the biggest near-term opportunity. The company also sees CBRS-powered fixed wireless network as an opportunity. An opportunity for the MSO to extend its HFC plant and offer broadband services in more rural territories. Charter is presently testing a CBRS-based fixed wireless service with non-paying customers in a rural part of North Carolina. Based on the results of those trials, which are looking into technical performance and operational processes involved, Charter could move toward commercial deployments sometime next year.