CBRS focus often on private LTE for enterprise and industry, but what what the fixed wireless access use case targeting rural broadband deployments?
The rugged Sierra Nevada foothills, which range to the northeast and southeast of Sacramento, Calif., are a difficult place to provide reliable access to quality broadband services. Cal.net provides wired and wireless broadband services, as well as VoIP telephony, in the area with wireless consumer services topping out at 25 Mbps downlink throughput and 4 Mbps on the uplink. In effort to augment that service using a fixed wireless access LTE deployment model, the WISP is working with ExteNet Systems to prep for commercial use of the CBRS band.
The 3.5 GHz CBRS band is the subject of major interest in the telecom community. In the U.S. a three-tiered spectrum access system would allow incumbent, priority and general access users to tap into the spectrum, while, globally, it’s seen as a key band to deliver 5G roaming support. A lot of CBRS conversations are geared around enabling private LTE networks for industrial and enterprise applications, but this project demonstrates the potential value of using shared spectrum to better cover rural areas. Right now this deployment is operating on Part 90 rules awaiting the SAS approval.
ExteNet Systems CTO Tormod Larsen discussed the project in terms of helping to bridge the digital divide. “There remains a significant disparity in access to high-speed reliable broadband wireless service outside the big cities and towns today, he said, noting that access to quality internet access is “ingrained in our work and in our lifestyle.” With Cal.net ExteNet Systems is following an infrastructure-as-a-service model to deliver small cell connectivity on the back of a virtualized evolved packet core to “lay the foundation for a fixed wireless service,” Larsen said.
In August ExteNet Systems Director of Technology Randy Johnson discussed many aspects of the neutral host providers approach to testing and deploying CBRS–read more about that here–including how it could benefit WISP customer in a migration to LTE-based services.
Back to that regulatory point, Mark Pitts, VP of business development for telecom equipment vendor Power and Tel, told RCR Wireless News the main challenge facing CBRS adoption is the slow-moving governmental machinations. ”
t depends so much on the federal government to listen to the marketplace and make sure nobody’s toes are getting stepped on. Then the electronics manufacturers can start building to that availability. I think that’s going to be the slowest piece of the process. “We have a company that integrates fixed wireless for rural service providers, so you think about a DSL network replacement where DSL speeds aren’t viable out past a mile from twisted pair. You can use what’s currently available in that CBRS band. In 2015 they halted the licensing of that 50 megahertz so they could develop those CBRS rules and here we are almost three years later and they still haven’t opened that new plan up for tripling the frequency. Now it’s only going to take longer when you throw in 3.5 GHz for rural consumer broadband, but it also looks like a good roaming band. It seems like it could be held even more.”
But Cal.net isn’t deterred. CTO Ken Garnett said, “We have plans for over 350 sites in staggered deployment phases for this new LTE fixed wireless service over CBRS shared spectrum and we are excited about the enhanced speed, bandwidth and reliability that this network will deliver to thousands of our residential and business customers.”