This month, the FCC approved to begin initial commercial deployments of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which introduces a flexible model for spectrum sharing in the 3.5GHz spectrum band.
While the development represents a significant milestone, CBRS use cases, applications, and implications are not widely understood outside of the wireless industry.
Tormod Larsen, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of ExteNet Systems, shared insights, applications, and long-term implications of CBRS as they relate to commercial real estate owners in an interview with Connected Real Estate Magazine.
“The immediate opportunity under the umbrella right now is Private LTE, both in a neutral host environment and otherwise. Widescale adoption is longer term and contingent upon device ecosystem availability,” said Larsen.
In-Building Use Cases
CBRS in-building use cases span from connecting digital signage and smart building IoT devices and sensors to running complex building management systems. However, the first kind of in-building CBRS applications are emerging in the push-to-talk space, according to Larsen.
The benefits of using CBRS compared to WiFi is that it offers enhanced security and predictable performance.
“CBRS fits right in the middle of wireless access technology use cases which require better security and predictable performance. WiFi offers no dedicated capacity or service guarantee, limiting the predictability and security over the performance of IoT connected devices,” said Larsen.
For this reason, CBRS and cellular-based solutions are often a superior choice. With the increasing threat of cybercriminals aiming to gain access through to IoT devices, CBRS can enable building owners to segment their IoT connectivity and other network data off of WiFi and public networks and gain both heightened security and performance.
ExteNet Systems, which has roughly 2,000 CBRS sites under contract mainly in rural America, has several pilot in-building installations in place which range from manufacturing plants to massive entertainment venues where CBRS is being used as the wireless access technology to enable push to talk applications, wireless payment use cases, connect digital signage, and allow broadband connectivity for temporary spaces. Scenarios include campus environments with requirements for converged security, connecting IoT sensors and even copper replacements.
Digital connectivity is a crucial component to securing and retaining tenants as well as increasing rents. As the 5G rollout continues, tenants and occupants will expect superior connectivity in their office buildings and other workplaces, similar to what they experience outdoors – CBRS can help to provide a clear pathway towards 5G for building owners.
Within the smart building space, CBRS enables enhanced connectivity of security systems, including IoT sensors and other digital devices that could make buildings more intelligent and more efficient. However, to fully comprehend the added “value” from these systems, Larsen says, building owners need to start tracking how these factors directly impact rents and profitability.
Understanding the Costs and Converged Value
CBRS indoor coverage has 68% lower cost per square foot compared to traditional DAS, according to a recent study by the OnGo Group. The study examined the costs of deploying WiFi, traditional DAS, MNO Smalls, and CBRS in a 200,000 square foot indoor space with four MNOs over a five-year TCO. The critical factor driving lower costs related to CBRS deployments is that a single radio can support all four major operators in the 3.5 GHz band by default. In comparison, multiple parallel operator-specific small cells are required in a traditional licensed small cell deployment case. Although DAS costs can be brought down with less expensive small cells as a signal source for smaller venues, OnGo still offers a lower-cost alternative for mobile LTE coverage, according to the report.
While CBRS does cost more than WiFi, Larsen says that building owners should understand the converged value derived from wireless access solutions like CBRS.
“With CBRS, a building owner can do a multitude of things on one network. For example, currently, many building owners may be using WiFi, cellular, and Zigbee. With CBRS, all of the use cases can be aggregated in one place. A building owner should be thinking about the bigger opportunity and considering what the converged network costs across multiple applications,” Larsen said.
A converged network not only lowers costs by eliminating duplicitous connectivity solutions, but also offers long-term benefits such as the ability to aggregate data across all applications which can be used in artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, according to Larsen.
When considering wireless access technology options, building owners should identify how they want to use CBRS to enable their smart and connected buildings. “Building owners should be asking questions such as, ‘What use cases are we unable to provide today and what will we need to provide in the future?’” said Larsen.
It’s also critical to find a trusted, and knowledgeable partner, says Larsen. “CBRS is complex and can be used for multiple use cases. It’s essential to find a partner who understands its scope and applications,” said Larsen.
It’s also critical to focus on your original business model and the provision of exceptional service. How can a technology like CBRS support and maybe enhance your core business?
“It’s important to remember that tenants are willing to pay a few cents more per square foot if they can gain access to more reliable connectivity. That’s a much better way to look at it than getting a revenue charge from the carriers. Focus on what matters and get tenants better service, so they can, in turn, run their business better,” Larsen said.