FAQ: Your CBRS Questions Answered with CBRS Alliance, Sequans & Telit Cinterion

January 4, 2021

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During our webinar, “Understanding the Results of the FCC’s CBRS PAL Auction,” CBRS Alliance’s Dave Wright, Telit Cinterion’s Safi Khan and Sequans’ Nick Taluja discussed the results of FCC Auction 105. The auction made the highest number of spectrum licenses ever available in an individual auction and raised nearly $4.6 billion in net bids. Out of 22,631 70-MHz  licenses, over 228 bidders won 20,625. The sale of these licenses will further 5G deployment and other spectrum-based services in the United States. 

The webinar elicited many questions about the impact of private LTE CBRS from the audience. Here are the top 12 questions with answers provided by the three members of the webinar panel. 

David Wright
President, CBRS Alliance

Safi Khan
Regional Product Marketing Director, Telit Cinterion

Nick Taluja
Vice President, Head of Sales and Field Operations, Sequans Communications

1. I’m aware of the designation for private LTE in the CBRS (3.5 GHz) Band, but what is the story or plan for 5G in the CBRS Band?

Dave Wright, CBRS Alliance: 5G NR (New Radio) is supported in the CBRS Band (3GPP Band n48) with the introduction of the CBRS Alliance Release 3 technical specifications in early 2020. You can find more info here.

2. Is CBRS appropriate for public safety agencies working in large and remote rural areas?

Safi Khan, Telit Cinterion: Public safety agencies have three choices. First, they can use public cellular networks from mobile network operators (MNOs); second, they can deploy a Wi-Fi network; third, they can deploy a private LTE network. The first option can cost more because they must pay for the data that they will use. In large remote and rural areas, they may not have cellular coverage from any MNOs. The second option may not work in large remote and rural areas due to the limited range of Wi-Fi access points, or it may become quite expensive if the number of Wi-Fi access points is increased to cover the large outdoor area. The third option to deploy a private LTE network suits them because it costs less to operate, and it has a much longer range than Wi-Fi, so it can easily cover the large outdoor remote area with far fewer access points called CBRS devices.

3. What application and LTE category is suitable for CBRS?

Safi Khan, Telit Cinterion and Nick Taluja, Sequans: Telit Cinterion offers Cat 9, Cat 6, and Cat 4 CBRS modules in which downlink speeds can reach 450 Mbps, 200 Mbps and 100 Mbps respectively.

Some of the applications are:

  • Schools and learning with dongles and inexpensive hotspots. COVID-19 pushing many schools to consider online learning.
  • For applications such as oil and gas, farming, and mining, industrial IoT gateways can set up fast networks.
    AMI, as CBRS offers a long-term solution and backup vs. traditional MNO commitments for longevity.
  • There are many more applications than one can imagine. The use cases cover anything from fixed wireless access to connected machines, point of sale, M2M, vending machines, tools, IoT devices, sensors and much more.

4. What will this auction mean to device developers?

Safi Khan, Telit Cinterion: Device developers have a new business avenue they can pursue. If they had Wi-Fi products, they can expand their range and coverage and increase their security level by offering a private LTE flavor of their existing product lines.

Compared to MNOs, private LTE business for device developers comes with reduced certification costs, faster time to market and reduced complexity because none of the carrier requirements are needed.

There is a large ecosystem of CBRS OnGo certified products and services. This ecosystem is growing very fast, accompanied by the $4.6 billion PAL auction that provided over 200 companies with CBRS licenses. The demand for CBRS devices will multiply over the next few years.

5. What is the impact of 5G on IoT deployments? Will it make things faster or keep the same pace?

Safi Khan, Telit Cinterion: 5G is here, and it is happening faster than anyone thought. Private 5G has a strong promise to bring new technological innovations to the manufacturing and industrial sector. Features like low latency, edge computing, virtualization, cloud and overall standalone (SA) architecture of 5G NR are well suited to be deployed as a private cellular offering for verticals like auto manufacturing, warehouses, industrial venues, broadband and fixed wireless access, enterprise networking, hospitals, medical, remote surgeries, AR, VR, XR, and many other verticals. The pace of 5G adoption is already faster than 4G. The same trend will continue with private networking, backed by the FCC mandate to make 5G a U.S. government-backed priority in North America.

6. What is CBRS?

Dave Wright, CBRS Alliance: CBRS is a 3.5 GHz spectrum opened by the FCC in the U.S. to keep up with coverage and capacity demands where Wi-Fi and other solutions fall short. You can learn more about CBRS and the CBRS Alliance here.

7. How can a new private LTE entrant learn who holds PAL licenses in their county?

Dave Wright, CBRS Alliance: They could either parse the FCC’s auction results or ask their SAS administrator.

8. I keep hearing that CBRS is useful for first responders, but I am struggling to see how when they need connectivity in rural and remote areas, especially during wildfires. Those areas often don’t have LTE coverage, so how can CBRS help in these situations?

Safi Khan, Telit Cinterion and Nick Taluja, Sequans: A pop-up network can be deployed using a compact network in a box that is a common realization of a private network. The core can run on a compact server, and the infrastructure components can be quickly deployed. The macrocell provides the primary coverage, and then small cells (CBRS devices) provide the coverage extension to the larger coverage area. Take a look at Question 2 for the answer to a first responder use case.

Here’s how CBRS helps first responders:

  • It offers a dedicated and highest priority of spectrum to first responders.
  • Most rural areas struggle with coverage. Given how the auction was conducted, many small players will be deploying networks in rural America much faster, so we expect more availability.
  • First responders can set up a network of their own very easily.

9. What is the CBRS Cat 4/6 module market’s expected size in terms of unit shipments over the next three years, and how does that compare to the mid-tier LTE and high-tier 5G?

Nick Taluja, Sequans: CBRS provides a greenfield opportunity, and as such, it isn’t easy to ascertain the exact total available market (TAM) today. However, we believe that the CBRS network deployment will be significantly faster than traditional networks, given how the auction was conducted and licenses were granted.

In urban areas like San Diego and around Chicago, we have seen strong interest from utility companies in acquiring CBRS spectrum. With many of the AMI meters moving to adopt cellular technologies, we anticipate that these companies plan to support CBRS within their infrastructure. While this might be a slow process, we believe CBRS will allow these companies to provide service longevity on LTE networks without deploying new infrastructure. Estimating such a market could easily be in the 10 million endpoint range. Applying such an analysis to all U.S. urban areas, we expect that the addressable opportunity could exceed 100 million units over the next three to five years.

Rural areas may provide for a much faster deployment when it comes to CBRS. Per the FCC Economic Research Service, around 60% of rural households have broadband service. These services are mostly provided over DSL, in which data rates above 200 Kbps are considered broadband access. Having access to CBRS and the spectrum being purchased by much smaller companies will drive fast deployment. The population living in rural America ranges between 46 million and 60 million residents. Using the 2019 average U.S. household having 2.52 people, this equals 18 to 24 million endpoints.

10. Is CBRS collaborating with other industry operator certification requirements (PTCRB, CTIA, 3GPP, etc.) to align requirements?

Dave Wright, CBRS Alliance: Yes. The CBRS Alliance has a core principle to not reinvent the wheel regarding work in other organizations, including 3GPP, WInnForum, MulteFire Alliance and many others. We have liaison agreements with many of these organizations to harmonize the overall industry efforts.

11. Does the CBRS Alliance develop standards for compliance and integration for its equipment and solutions providers?

Dave Wright, CBRS Alliance: Yes, the CBRS Alliance has its OnGo certification program, ensuring compliance with CBRS Alliance specifications and interoperability among components. For those familiar with the Wi-Fi ecosystem, this is similar to the Wi-Fi Alliance certification programs.

12. Is there any portion of CBRS spectrum that is open so that any enterprise can build a network? Or when an enterprise is referenced, the enterprise won spectrum in the auction?

Dave Wright, CBRS Alliance: Yes, the General Authorized Access (GAA) tier is available for use without acquiring a license at auction. Depending on the location, up to the full 150 MHz is available for GAA, but the incumbent and PAL uses have priority over GAA. Please note that PAL use is limited to 70 MHz of the overall 150 MHz, and incumbent use tends to be narrowband.

Learn more about what the results of Auction 105 mean by watching a replay of our webinar, “Understanding the Results of the FCC’s CBRS PAL Auction.” Request a project review and evaluation kit to see what private LTE CBRS can do for your enterprise network.