3.5 GHz CBRS Shared Spectrum Promises In-Building Cellular Enhancement for the Approximate System Cost and Deployment Simplicity of Wi-Fi
For many years now, Wi-Fi networks have been deployed indoors as an off-load for cellular services in an effort to cope with the ever growing demand for wireless data. Wi-Fi systems have become very sophisticated and the industry as a whole has grown well beyond expectations. There are some important draw backs to Wi-Fi however. Many hoped Wi-Fi would also provide quality voice capability via voice-over-Internet-protocol or VoIP. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi has proven, in many respects, to be a less than optimal substitute for cellular based in-building voice services.
Experts agree that Wi-Fi will never be able to provide the reliability, security low latency and quality of service inherent in LTE architected cellular networks. However, Wi-Fi is easy to deploy and relatively inexpensive as compared to a cellular DAS. Also Wi-Fi’s success and seemingly ubiquitous presence is in large part due to the fact that it operates in the relative freedom of unlicensed frequencies. So its use requires no carrier interactions, no permissions, and no approvals. Basically installing Wi-Fi is a slam dunk, and cellular coverage is not. Arguably, Wi-Fi has become a base building component where cellular DAS in most cases is still an option. Too bad cellular is not as inexpensive and easy to deploy and operate as Wi-Fi!
This is where CBRS enters the scene.
CBRS is basically an unlicensed LTE cellular signal source in the 3.5 GHz range. It should be simple to deploy and relatively inexpensive. Amazingly, it could enable 4 carrier coverage and capacity in a single CBRS small cell something not possible in single band small cells to date. Cumbersome carrier interactions will not be needed as CBRS is unlicensed just like Wi-Fi. As a matter of fact, MNOs should get a massive footprint expansion at little to no cost. CBRS small cells will put a big dent in overall coverage problems, especially in the Middleprise, while requiring no change to the operators’ core network.
Lastly, because it is unlicensed it does not have to run through the carrier’s core so it can be made into a private in building network, which is ideal for such things as corporate data security and IoT/IIot applications.
Here’s the message to the CRE developer and building owner….. CBRS should give you quality 4 carrier cellular services in one box, but should cost about the same as Wi-Fi at the system level and be as easy to deploy. Unlike DAS, it will require no Carrier permissions and can be standalone, or co-exist with installed Wi-Fi systems. With any luck what the real estate community has been looking for is coming.
The CBRS 3.5 GHz LTE phenomenon will eventually make a significant impact, in a positive way, on the CRE industry. First, it will most likely change the traditional cost structure and methods used in providing in-building cellular enhancement, and second, it could improve the operational efficiency of IoT and Industrial IoT platforms.
Its full mainstream use is still a year away at least. And there are serious hurdles to be overcome, but if you are in design development on a new property. Or you’re just coming out of the ground in a new construction project. Or if an important tenant lease is coming up in a year and you want to do everything possible to retain the customer, be mindful of CBRS. It is a new technology that promises to be a true windfall for commercial developers and building owners.
Note: As a contributor to Connected Real Estate magazine online and print I will be closely following CBRS and writing about it on a regular basis. If you have an immediate need for additional CBRS information contact Bob Butchko at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973.244.5868 x104 (O), 302.515.4811 (M)