CBRS System Planning

What are your CBRS Core Decisions?

I have been getting pummeled with CBRS questions lately. I can’t go over all of them here but I do want to address some of them. 

Let’s start with the core. I get questions all the time about the cost and price of the core and how they should plan to build it. You see I work with a lot of deployment teams who may not understand the core. I also have heard from IT teams that want to know what decisions to make. 

They wonder what they need (from a high level) for cores, RAN deployment, and remaining infrastructure. Where to start and what direction to go. 

The IT teams need to know hat they are putting in. They have to work with OEMs to build a model for the core. The OEMs may push into what they want you to do, not what you need to do. Remember that each OEM has an agenda to sell equipment, services, and ongoing licenses.

Here/s the thing, you have to know where you are and where you want to go. Sounds simple right? Yet, most teams have not thought it through. 

Make some decisions around the offering. 

What services are you going to offer? This question alone will help you move ahead. If you don’t know what you want the system for, you don’t know how to design any of it.

Let’s look at some simple decisions and walk through them.

Is this a data-only network, voice network, or both?

This is a key question because adding voice adds cost and complexity. If you are going to do voice, you need to consider so much more than if it’s a data-only network.

For one, why would you offer voice? Just because it’s cool or is there a solid business reason? Do you want to offer roaming and offloading to carriers? If you do, you’re adding a lot of cost and complexity to your system.

Voice means VoLTE. VoLTE means additional costs across the network.

From a high level here are some additional costs to think about:

  • VoLTE in the core adds CapEx,
  • Licensing around VoLTE adds ongoing costs,
  • Additional testing and handoffs around voice,
  • E911 requirements and testing,
  • Handoff and roaming agreements with carriers,
  • Management and device requirements,
  • Roadmaps and upgrades around voice,
  • Migration to 5G with voice (there is currently no solution for voice in 5G that satisfies e911),

We all would love to brag about voice and show how well it works on a normal device from Samsung or Apple.


Would you own the core, lease the core, or align with a carrier for a core?

Everyone wants to build and own a core until they see the price tag. Not just the CapEx but the OpEx. The ongoing cost for licenses, maintenance, and physical space. This is a decision you have to make for your business.

Maybe it would make sense to lease a core, annually, if you’re not sure what direction you want to go upfront. If you do lease, shop around, that can run into a lot of money as well. 

Maybe you could align with a carrier and act as an MVNO for offloading.

Maybe you build a “data-only” core and act as an ISP for backhaul or data only. 

Maybe it’s a private network and you only want your users with a specific purpose on this network.

These are decisions that you would need to align with your business plan. The core is a key component, but it also something you can migrate int he future. You have the option to own or lease.

Who are you serving?

I would bet in your head you would say everyone that needs data or offloading. That is misguided. 

Seriously, who are your primary customers?

The smart city may be serving city workers or offering a backhaul solution. Maybe they want to build a network that the carriers can roam onto so that the carriers stop putting gear on every city pole.

Maybe you’re a small carrier who wants to serve an underserved section of the city. You can build something that the carriers can roam onto because they have no desire to help that part of the city get service because there’s no money for them to be made there.

Maybe you’re a rural utility or coop that wants to get a bigger bang for your buck by adding fiber to the pole by the road and then offering fixed wireless solutions to homes. This may save you several thousands of dollars and offer a quick connect service for more customers from existing poles. 

Maybe it’s a fixed wireless solution in a suburban area where the only player is the cable company and you think there should be at least one competitor.

No matter what it is, you should be serving a specific market or niche to start. Do you even know what direction you’re headed? Do you have the money to get there? 


If you need help, just ask. 

Let me know if you need help.




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