CBRS and open source software power wireless networks in national parks

AccessParks will use FreedomFi's core network solution to create more CBRS networks in parks. (AccessParks)

A company that has built dozens of CBRS networks is now working with FreedomFi to deploy private LTE using open source software. AccessParks says it has already established almost 100 CBRS LTE networks, and by the end of this year it expects to have 200 live sites at national parks and private RV parks around the country. The company has worked with a number of radio and core network vendors, but going forward AccessParks will standardize on FreedomFi's core network solution while continuing to use multiple radio vendors.

FreedomFi, a startup created by Mirantis founder Boris Renski, is trying to democratize cellular networks by giving tech-savvy companies a way to use open-source code to control private wireless networks. The company sells a $300 hardened version of Facebook's Project Magma code, delivered in the form of a gateway that can control about five eNodeBs. AccessParks is using eNodeB transmitters made by Airspan, Telrad and Baicells with the FreedomFi gateway as the onsite controller, typically housed in a data center at the venue.

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Serial entrepreneur Tim Rout founded AccessParks with the team from one of his previous startups, Endeka Group, which built Wi-Fi networks for the military and other U.S. government agencies. Now the team is using CBRS to connect Wi-Fi hotspots at RV campsites and national parks. AccessParks is the only broadband provider approved as a concessionaire by the U.S. National Park Service.

Because most of the sites that AccessParks connects are in remote areas, the company typically does not need a license to use CBRS spectrum and can support the hotspots using General Authorized Access spectrum.

FreedomFi and Facebook

Rout said FreedomFi has done a great job making the Evolved Packet Core "functional and usable," and that his team members now have so much experience with the technology that they can configure a FreedomFi EPC in an hour. The first 10 sites were rolled out with help from Facebook, which added roaming functionality to Magma so that as carrier networks start to support CBRS, devices will be able to move from public networks onto the parks' CBRS networks.

For Facebook, the CBRS networks in national parks are a good way to make sure vacationers can post about their trips, and they offer a high-visibility deployment for Magma, which Facebook describes as "an open-source software platform that allows operators to easily deploy mobile networks in hard-to-reach areas."

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According to FreedomFi's Renski, Magma provides unified core functions for LTE, 5G standalone (SA) and Wi-Fi, built as a set of cloud-native microservices. Tier 1 global operators are interested in learning more about it.  Renski said FreedomFi is now involved in early pilots with three of the top four mobile network operators in the U.S, as well as a few in Europe.