CBRS Planning and Implementation Overview


Here’s the thing, I have been talking about the CBRS spectrum and how it will be a game-changer for business. Especially for small businesses. Not because it’s license-free, but because it’s LTE and lightly licensed. Now, for the first time in a long time, small businesses can fill the holes that the carriers purposely ignored. 

Why did the carriers ignore coverage holes? Because there was no way for them to make money by deploying everywhere, no matter what they say. Even Sprint’s new advertising was based on the theme, “we’re good enough and cheaper, why not go with us?”. 

Let’s face it, the carriers had the FCC drag their feet on the CBRS deployment, it took forever. Now, finally, we can see some real-world deployments. I see the bids out there and I see too many companies fighting to be the first in their respective areas.

Now, you’re probably wondering why the carriers would not want to keep it all for themselves. Trust, they will quickly, selfishly, and efficiently deploy it themselves, where they need it. That’s the key statement. “WHERE THEY NEED IT!” Not where anyone else wants them to put it. The city can cry the blues and identify underserved areas. The carrier will act as they care, but unless they have a payback or a bigger goal in mind, they’re not going to waste the money because it may piss off the shareholders. 

Don’t fool yourself, the carriers need to make money.

So what is the answer for the CBRS spectrum? The carriers have to see the opportunity that the small MNOs and MVNO can build a specific area using the CBRS GA spectrum. Now we’re talking. Someone else will make the investment and the carriers can roam on to it with little or no investment. I wrote about the mini MNO, https://wade4wireless.com/2019/08/10/what-is-a-mini-mno/, where I explain what it is and how it will work. The thing is, the carriers want to move onto bigger and better things. This is an opportunity for them to gain immediate coverage in those areas where they didn’t want to invest. Now they can see how much traffic really roams into those areas. 

The thing is I see the model already playing out. The CBRS systems are being deployed in buildings and around smaller coverage areas. So far, pretty much all urban, but don’t worry, there are new models coming up in all areas of the USA. 

The carriers should look at the smaller carriers as a blessing. They are happy to offload the network build to others. This is their opportunity to see that through. 

Many people thought CBRS would be an alternative to Wi-Fi. That is silly. We all expect Wi-Fi to be free and it’s mostly indoors. CBRS has a different purpose. It is not going to be as obvious as Wi-Fi. It is going to look like a carrier or an MVNO on your device. It most certainly will not show up as Wi-Fi where you have to log on but rather seamless roaming for your device where you just roam onto that system assuming your carriers has an agreement with that mini MNO. 

I want to put this into perspective for you. Here is what I see happening, and I don’t mean in my mind, but actual deployments being planned, budgeted, and deployed as I write this.

  • Indoor DAS systems are slowly becoming more of a DRAN, distributed RAN, CRAN, concentrated or cloud RAN, and small cell deployments. The head ends may or may not be in the building. They could be a simple data room or off-site altogether. So DAS is now more of a distributed radio head deployment using fiber instead of coax. Now, they are adding CBRS to most of those models. 
  • Outdoor systems in smart poles will be populated with the CBRS spectrum where the carriers don’t see a payback. It makes sense, right? Whether it’s a small cell or a radio head, it’s going to include CBRS for mobility.
  • Large venues like stadiums and arenas are adding CBRS small cells and radio heads to bolster normal cell phone usage. To cover those areas where you don’t need gigabits of data but maybe coverage to handle calls in a spotty area. 
  • Underserved areas in cities where the local business needs coverage but the carrier refuses to invest because the payback is next to nothing. This could be where they rely on Wi-Fi and everyone has to sit outside the McDonalds to do their homework. 
  • Smaller cities and municipalities that carriers deem a waste of time to install because they don’t see the payback, again. This is where CBRS can shine.

I didn’t mention the private LTE offerings, like what utilities did with WiMAX. Here is an offering that will replace those WiMAX systems that are dated. Those deals are coming together too. 

We have to look at the open CBRS with SAS to be an opportunity for more than the carriers. It is time to think outside of the box. We are starting to enter a new era where we can build smaller networks that the carriers can roam onto and we can roam onto their systems. 

The way I see it, this allows Verizon and AT&T to concentrate on their higher-income business as well as developing new business plans with mmwave. For them, they can let smaller MVNOs deal with site acquisition and deployment in areas where they do not have the resources and money to deploy. It makes sense. 

Think of the businesses that can make use of this spectrum, not only in urban but the rural areas. This is a way to connect areas that can’t get anything else if the fiber is close enough. I’m not saying it’s the only solution, but part of the solution. Rural solutions need a piece of everything and it’s really hard to make them profitable. At least the models I have seen. 

So there you have it, a new way to look at the CBRS or small businesses that are on the verge of becoming players in communications. 

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