Private LTE, using new spectrum, approaching ‘market readiness’

Private LTE networks, using brand-new frequencies, will be available 2018 Q4 or 2019 Q1 says an expert.

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Deploying private internet of things LTE networks using open-access, about-to-be-released, shared spectrum is getting closer to the starting gate, according to the CBRS Alliance, which has just announced the inception of eight global test labs for its OnGo equipment certifications. Enterprises will be able to use their own, in-building, dedicated equipment for the cellular-like systems on new frequencies.

As a sign “of market readiness, OnGo access points from several member companies have already started the testing process,” CBRS Alliance says in the release on its website. OnGo is CBRS Alliance’s moniker for the mobile broadband-like CBRS LTE shared-spectrum equipment.

The industry body says that the wireless network technology, pitched partly at IoT, will take advantage of the U.S. government’s upcoming Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band. The Federal Communications Commission says it wants to see “commercial deployment” of the former military-oriented 3.5-GHz frequencies. It most recently affirmed its commitment to opening up the spectrum in a public notice (PDF), requesting proposals, released last month.

“CBRS is about to become a commercial reality,” said Rashid Bhatti, of Casa Systems, a CBRS Alliance member and 5G vendor, in a blog post in June. “Deployments could begin as early as late 2018, or start of 2019.”

CBRS’s 150 MHz of contiguous spectrum is likely to attract widespread and varied uses:

Enterprise, for example, is expected to use CBRS for running IoT, among other uses, in local, secured LTE networks, according to the evangelizer CBRS Alliance; and alongside that, a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) could grab some of the band to augment existing spectrum, such as where the telco needs more mobile broadband, or voice capacity for new 5G rollouts. Wi-Fi-common tasks, such as video or voice, can be offloaded, too, by cable internet service providers (ISP) and building managers.

Licensing

Commercial CBRS frequency allocation will occur through a unique three-tier-based sharing system. A priority, bid-wininng user, such as an MNO or ISP, will get top-level service through a Tier 2 Priority Access License (PAL) — most likely to be issued on a census tract-level geographic basis.

Incumbent, first-tier U.S. Navy radar, and some satellite operations will still get to use the band, but with a newly introduced adjustable geographic limitation based on azimuth and beam.

However, there will also be a non-prioritized open access — a third tier that enterprises individually could deploy. “The lowest tier GAA users are permitted to use any portion of the 3.5 GHz band not assigned to higher tier users,” Mobile Experts, explains in a white paper (PDF).

Bhatti, in his post published on CBRS Alliance’s website, says that it’s those unlicensed General Authorized Access (GAA) Tier 3 users that will be first commercial users to be able to implement networks, possibly this year, on the band, in non-trial environments—there’s less licensing legalese still to be worked out for them.

“An opportunity to create a private [CBRS] LTE network, in similar manner as Wi-Fi, to run enterprise- or venue-specific applications on mobile devices of consumers or workers enables tremendous flexibility,” says Mobile Experts in its May-updated CBRS Alliance-published report.

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