As the industry waits for the Federal Communications Commission to finalize the details of spectrum licenses for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service shared spectrum at 3.5 GHz, there are three potential ways that CBRS will be used. 

The three potential uses for CBRS include:

Macro network offload. CBRS will almost certainly be used much like the rest of mobile network operators’ spectrum, to augment capacity through the deployment of small cell infrastructure. 

Verizon, for example, has said that it anticipates that its first use for CBRS will be outdoor small cells: densifying its network locally and offloading traffic from the macro tower network. Verizon has already been testing CBRS in its live network in both indoor and outdoor scenarios and expects the arrival of CBRS-equipped devices by the end of this year.

Fixed wireless broadband access. This use case is already being tested by companies such as infrastructure provider Extenet, which has been testing CBRS for several years and has CBRS-ready equipment deployed for several wireless internet service providers. Cable companies such as Altice USA are also exploring the use of CBRS to augment their wireline service offerings. 

Private LTE services. These could be enterprise-focused LTE offerings either offered by a carrier in a network-as-a-service context that augments their current offerings, or by third parties. Those private LTE services could be very internet-of-things-focused, according to Paul Challoner, VP of network product solutions for Ericsson North America. He said that applications are starting to emerge that include basic connectivity and involve the integration of sensors and video security cameras.

One of the features that makes the use of LTE in CBRS spectrum attractive is the forward-looking migration path, he added. 

“One of the interesting things about CBRS is that then it has a path to [New Radio] and 5G that can provide a migration path to 5G services,” Challoner noted. 

In related news, the Federal Communications Commission last week granted experimental licenses to Ruckus Wireless and its parent company ARRIS for CBRS field trials in Colorado and Illinois, and to SBA Communications for testing CBRS inside a private building and the surrounding area.

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