CBRS is an opportunity for carriers and enterprise
The 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band is a very hot topic in the telecom industry at the moment. For carriers, it’s more spectrum; for enterprises like commercial real estate owners, it’s a chance to deploy a private or neutral host LTE network; and for the vendor ecosystem, it’s a way to sell a new set of base stations, antennas, chips and everything else that goes into deploying a network.
The team at Connected follows developments around CBRS closely. For a deep dive into what CBRS means for commercial real estate professionals, download our report “Understanding 3.5 GHz CBRS: Implications for commercial building and property managers.”
Here we’re going to look at how carriers view CBRS, which, to a large extent, hinges on a change to rules in front of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. At a very high-level, there are 150 megahertz of excellent mobile spectrum available that’s currently occupied by some incumbent users including the Department of Defense. To allow other users to access the frequency without interfering with the incumbents, a spectrum access software system would be needed to dynamically prioritize use. That three-tiered system would keep incumbents at the top, add in priority users and at the bottom, everyone else. Those priority users would need FCC approval before tapping into 3.5 GHz, and the regulatory body is currently considering how to assign licenses—either tied to smaller U.S. Census tracts or to much larger Partial Economic Areas, and whether to license the spectrum for three years or a decade.
Although that’s still in process, major Tier 1 carriers like Verizon are already working to understand the potential of CBRS. Down in Boca Raton, Fla., the carrier has asked the FCC to give it special temporary authority to conduct testing of CBRS transmissions. In a test of Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), which stitches together licensed and unlicensed frequencies into a larger data pipe, Verizon hit nearly 1 Gbps using in Boca Raton. Now the company wants to work “with base station and mobile device equipment vendors to conduct product testing of 3.5 GHz in both indoor and outdoor locations.”
Although it doesn’t name any of its vendors or partners, there are a few details in the STA application. Verizon wants to run the tests from April 2 until Sept. 28, and is testing what’s called Citizens Broadband Radio Service devices (CBRDs), which come in Category A and Category B varieties. The Category A devices have a max power level of 24 dBm and have to be less than 6 meters above the ground. These will likely be indoor radio units meant to bolster in-building connectivity. The more powerful Category B devise are essentially outdoor small cells.
In the previous CBRS testing, Verizon has worked with Ericsson on the network infrastructure piece, with Qualcomm on trial devices and with Federated Wireless, which has developed a spectrum access system.