Federated Wireless on Monday said it has wrapped up deployment of its nationwide environmental sensing capability (ESC) network, making the vendor ready for initial commercial deployment of CBRS services once final FCC approvals are in place.
Federated Wireless, an early and active player pushing for commercialization of the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, just snagged FCC certification of its ESC network in late April. Federated Wireless CEO Iyad Tarazi told Wireless Week that the company was deploying the ESC network in parallel with lengthy federal testing.
The ESC network is needed to ensure that incumbent transmissions, including those from the U.S. Navy, are interference-free. Federated is still awaiting FCC approval of its spectrum access systems (SAS), which the company expects to receive “imminently,” according to Tarazi. Once certified, the SAS can receive information from the ESC network and dynamically allocate spectrum across the three tiers of CBRS users.
While the U.S. Navy is the primary incumbent on the band, Tarazi explained that it usually only uses about 1 percent of the 150 Mhz of spectrum available in the CBRS band.
The rest of the spectrum is divided among two tiers of users: General Authorized Access (GAA), which is free to use, and Priority Access Licenses (PALs), which has priority over GAA users, though an auction for PALs isn’t expected to happen until 2020.
Federated’s newly completed ESC network is comprised of hundreds of dedicated sensors built primarily along the nation’s coastlines, designed to pinpoint Navy transmissions in a secure way, Tarazi explained. And Federated continues to add more sensors, boosting redundancy to ensure coverage isn’t lost.
If one ESC goes down, hundreds of square miles of spectrum coverage could be lost, which is why Federated built the network to be triple redundant, according to Tarazi.
“That [ESC] model allows us, with the rest of the system that we’ve built, to protect the Navy 100 percent but still make the other 99 percent of the spectrum available,” he said.
Initial Commercial Deployments
Federated expects commercialization to start in June, Tarazi said, and has 25 customers that are predeploying hardware today and working out operational service systems.
For CBRS, the first wave is known as initial commercial deployments (ICD), which essentially is a period of time where the FCC will be double checking that all parts of the sharing model are working as they should be before automation takes over for full commercial deployments.
From a customer perspective however, Tarazi said there is no difference in the sense that during ICDs they’ll have full access to the spectrum, be able to charge for services, and can use commercial equipment.
Tarazi said he expects full commercial deployments, when the FCC won’t be double checking, to happen by August or September.
A variety of players have expressed interest and participated in CBRS trials, including major U.S. carriers, cable operators like Charter Communications and Midco, and enterprise WiFi companies.
Federated has 22 publicly announced customers and partners including Verizon, American Tower, Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, Ruckus, ExteNet Systems, Midco, and Syniverse, among others. The company also has 15 commercial service contracts in place and 30 OEMs fully integrated with Federated’s SAS.
The applications for CBRS vary as well, spanning network densification and mobile offload, fixed wireless broadband, enterprise private LTE, and Industrial IoT.
“What’s really happening is you have this massive market opportunity, both indoor and outdoor, shared and private networks, and new connectivity models driven by IoT and evolution to 5G and all of that is happening at the same time and nobody wants to be left out,” Tarazi said, speaking to the readiness of the CBRS ecosystem.
Federated also feels confident about its market leadership in the CBRS space, with Tarazi pointing to public announcements from competitors Google and Commscope, which expect to deliver CBRS solutions by the end of the year.
“I am extremely pleased with what we have been able to achieve in such a short time, and am eager to begin the next phase of CBRS service development and expansion,” Tarazi said in a statement. “Our technological innovation over the past seven years has positioned us well to continue to lead this industry, while our expanding partner ecosystem and customer base ensure that we have the support we need to do so while continuing to address their most pressing business needs.”
With CBRS nearing commercialization, Federated is extending its work in the shared spectrum space, with eyes on the adjacent C-Band and 3.1-3.55 GHz, as well as the 6 GHz band.
“Now I think we can easily predict that sharing is going to be almost the only way forward now to create 5G spectrum in the mid-band anytime in the next five to 10 years,” Tarazi said.