Federated Wireless on the State of the CBRS Industry

CBRS or Citizen Broadband Radio Service is paving way for private LTE/5G networks in the US. It is a 150 MHz spectrum band between 3.5GHz to 3.7GHz designated by the US FCC to be shared among priority access licensees, incumbents such as fixed satellite companies and lightly licensed users who benefit from shared access to the spectrum.

Tara Neal, Executive Editor of The Fast Mode recently spoke to Becky Bobzien-Simms, SVP Operations at Federated Wireless on the latest developments in the CBRS space as well as Federated Wireless’ recent initiatives. Founded in 2012, Federated Wireless has long led the industry in the development of shared spectrum CBRS capabilities. The company’s partner ecosystem includes more than 40 device manufacturers and edge partners, all of which are dedicated to collaboration to advance the development and proliferation of CBRS services.

Tara: Can you tell us more about CBRS in terms of its evolution and the technologies that are supporting its deployments?

Becky Bobzien-Simms, SVP Operations, Federated Wireless

Becky: The concept for using CBRS shared spectrum was driven by an obvious need for more spectrum to fuel new innovations in enterprise private wireless and 5G solutions. This was a concept that went through an exceptional certification process and extensive testing, and we’re very proud to have a been a driving force in building the ecosystem and model that makes CBRS possible. As you know, Federated Wireless went commercial with CBRS at the end of 2019. We saw large adoption in 2020 and significant growth throughout 2021. With over 375 customers and more than 100,000 active devices, we see CBRS being used in various verticals, from fixed wireless, mobility offload, to utilities and bridging the digital divide for remote learning and underserved commuinities.

Tara: Who are the key players in the CBRS ecosystem? Do you see new players in this space over the coming years?   . 

Becky: As you mentioned earlier, we work with over 40 different partners/equipment manufacturers, and we have over 375 customers and growing. From a partner aspect, we continue to work with new device manufacturers regularly to get them certified and integrate the FW SAS into their solution to access CBRS shared spectrum. Additionally, we are onboarding new customers every week. CBRS shared spectrum is very attractive, considering its low cost, simple to deploy model, security, and stability. Federated Wireless is committed to growing and supporting CBRS in years to come. Private wireless deployments for enterprise customers is one area in particular where we’re seeing new and exciting players enter the ecosystem. You’ve seen many of our key hyperscaler partners announce private 5G solutions over the last few months that leverage CBRS shared spectrum, and these partnerships are one example of how the industry continues to innovate and take advantage of shared spectrums unique benefits.

Tara: When it comes to 5G, how does CBRS help enterprises build their private networks? What are some of the use cases we can expect for private 5G over CBRS?

Becky: It gives control back to the customer versus relying and depending on public cellular networks for deployments where a private solution running on shared spectrum can be a more advantageous move for the business. Security policies can be controlled within the company’s IT organization and they can customize the network to their exact requirements according to the applications and devices they need to deploy. CBRS, allows for what every network should provide: high speeds, low latency and the ability to layer applications over 5G. We are already deploying Private Wireless in a number of use cases, including:  smart warehousing, farming, campus networks, healthcare, logistics, and oil & gas just to name a few. We continue to talk to new customers to understand their needs for private networks every day. With our expertise around CBRS, wireless design, implementation and support, it’s a natural fit for Federated Wireless.

Tara: Late last year, Federated Wireless announced a new channel program aimed at expediting the availability of shared spectrum via Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs). How does CBRS enable this and who will be the program’s biggest beneficiaries?

Becky: We value our partnerships and the expansion of CBRS. Naturally, Federated Wireless wants to be able to bring shared spectrum and it’s benefits to all operators, large and small. When it comes to Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs), we recognize they have long-standing, trusted relationships with partners in this space. By integrating with many of our channel partners, it simplifies cost, speed to market and most importantly it ensures we can deliver world-class support to WISP customers. All the players in the CBRS ecosystem benefit by making this seamless experience for the customer.

Tara: What about Federated Wireless’ Spectrum Exchange which was launched around the same time? How will the Exchange impact CBRS deployments in the country?

Becky: Last year (April 2021), Priority Access Licenses (PAL) were auctioned off in the CBRS band, which effectively is dedicated spectrum that is protected by SAS administrators. Spectrum Exchange is very valuable to customers who did not secure PAL licenses and need additional dedicated spectrum. The spectrum exchange allows for PAL holders to lease a portion of their PAL spectrum to GAA users to expand their deployments and spectrum availability. The model essentially serves as a best of both worlds because it allows PAL holders to monetize under-utilized spectrum, while allowing GAA users a chance to leverage dedicated spectrum on-demand.

Tara: Thank you Becky. Appreciate you walking us through what’s happening in the CBRS segment, and look forward to seeing Federated Wireless’ initiatives in this space over the coming years.

Becky: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about the exciting work Federated Wireless has done since the commercialization of CBRS. We remain committed to expanding on the many benefits of shared spectrum and it’s potential to solve key barriers that our industry faces today. In particular, we look forward to leading continued transformation in the shared spectrum space to keep putting next-generation wireless in the hands of the innovators who need it.

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To learn more on how Federated Wireless’ solutions in the CBRS space are powering use cases ranging from network densification and mobile offload to private 4G/5G and Industrial IoT, visit www.federatedwireless.com.