Latest end-to-end trials expand CBRS vendor partnerships
Carriers have in the past, do now and will continue to need more capacity. Delivering more capacity largely hinges on having the RF spectrum over which to deliver that capacity. In the U.S. the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band holds the allure of opening up 150 megahertz of prime spectrum under a prioritization and spectrum sharing system that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is still mulling.
But, despite the slow pace of FCC action, Verizon is actively testing CBRS with a growing set of partners. Last week the carrier announced a round of end-to-end testing of LTE in the CBRS band with a broader set of infrastructure and software vendors. Specifically, Verizon is examining performance of the spectrum access system, data rates, customer experience and interoperability between vendors to ensure handoffs.
“The promise of the CBRS band and enabling the use of wider swaths of spectrum will make a big impact on carrying wireless data in the future. These trials are critical to stress test the full system,” said Bill Stone, VP Technology Development and Planning for Verizon. “There are many players in the CBRS ecosystem and these successful trials ensure all the various parts perform together as an end-to-end system for our customers’ benefit. We want to ensure devices efficiently use CBRS spectrum and that the new components effectively interact with the rest of the network.”
Last year Verizon, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies and Federated Wireless got together to aggregate a CBRS carrier with other LTE carriers using LTE Advanced Pro functionalities. Verizon brought the spectrum, Ericsson brought the radio equipment, Qualcomm brought a test device and Federated brought the spectrum access system (SAS) they have developed.
The SAS piece here is particularly important. The 3.5 GHz band is used by incumbents including the Department of Defense. To make the frequency viable for commercial services, there has to be a prioritization system that lets incumbents use CBRS as they have, while accommodating new entrants. The FCC is considering a three-tiered SAS with incumbents at the top, priority licensees, like wireless carriers, in the middle and general access on the bottom tier.
Continuing its work from last year, Verizon is now testing end-to-end CBRS with its initial partners as well as Google, Corning and Nokia. Google, like Federated, has developed a SAS, and Corning and Nokia, in addition to Verizon, provided radio equipment. For a Tier 1 operator with a differentiated supplier pool, testing mobility and handoffs between antennas manufactured by the Ericssons, Nokias and Cornings of the world is an important part of ensuring continuity of customer experience.
While CBRS represents an obvious opportunity for carriers, there’s also a private LTE path that could enable enterprises and industrial players like commercial real estate owners to become their own neutral host providers, effectively investing in the shared spectrum and in-building wireless equipment needed to meet connectivity needs while also potentially creating a new revenue stream.
With the private LTE use case in mind, part of Verizon’s ongoing CBRS trial activity involves setting up private LTE sites “engineered to meet the needs of enterprise customers who want greater control over their LTE solutions including private on-site servers, control over access to their designated LTE network, as well as increased throughput and reduced latency through dedicated backhaul,” according to the company.