Nokia adds integrated SAS to its CBRS offering

Empty ocean and horizon
Spectrum Access Systems help CBRS users share spectrum with the U.S. Navy, among others. (Dimitri Houtteman/Pixabay)

Just a few weeks after achieving certification as a SAS administrator, Key Bridge Wireless has announced a partnership with Nokia, which will integrate the company's Spectrum Access System with Nokia's private wireless network equipment. The solution consists of Key Bridge's SAS/ESC coupled with Nokia CBRS radios, user devices and new domain proxy.

The Spectrum Access System is the infrastructure that makes it possible for organizations to share the valuable CBRS midband spectrum with the U.S. Navy and with one another. A SAS is a cloud-hosted service that connects to CBRS radios and blocks transmission if the spectrum the radios are trying to use is currently needed by the Navy. If the spectrum is currently available for commercial use, the SAS prioritizes licensed users over unlicensed users.

Often, enterprises rely on their radio vendors to recommend and/or engage a SAS provider, and sometimes the enterprise pays for the SAS as part of its contract with a network equipment vendor.

Nokia has more than 250 private wireless customers, and since Key Bridge was very recently certified as a SAS provider, many of Nokia's customers have gotten started with a different provider. The company said that going forward, it can continue to work with other SAS providers in addition to Key Bridge.

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"The relationship is non-exclusive," said Tristan Barraud, solution marketing manager at Nokia Enterprise. "Some of our existing customers leverage other SAS platforms. However the level of pre-integration with Key Bridge is at a far deeper level, enabling even higher availability and reliability of CBRS services."

When Key Bridge announced earlier this month that the FCC had certified the company as a SAS provider, it was still in the process of building out its Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) network. Environmental sensors are installed along the coastlines to detect Navy transmissions. Some SAS providers do not have their own ESC networks and instead leverage a competitor's network, but Key Bridge clearly plans to build its own.

Key Bridge said the integrated solution went through extensive testing and field trials prior to commercial launch. "Our SAS/ESC infrastructure is designed, deployed and operated to ensure carrier-grade reliability at tremendous scale," said Key Bridge CEO Jesse Caulfield. “Our partnership with Nokia has produced an integrated CBRS solution unlike any other."

Large deployments with multiple radio links that need to connect to a SAS will be streamlined by Nokia's domain proxy, the company said. Its proxy capabilities are implemented as scalable edge-cloud native micro-services.

Nokia said the Key Bridge SAS integration will be in place regardless of which private wireless platform its customers select. Its Digital Automation Cloud is its more turnkey solution and its Modular Private Wireless solution is more customizable. Both platforms support standalone 5G, and Nokia said more than 15% of its private wireless customers are already using 5G.   

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Nokia markets its private wireless solutions directly to enterprises, and also through service providers. Last October, Nokia and AT&T said they will jointly market private wireless networks using CBRS spectrum.

Barraud said the integrated solution targets CSPs and MSOs that will want to leverage their recent investments in CBRS spectrum, adding that smaller enterprises can also benefit. "This solution is also designed for small and medium sized businesses, public sector, education, maritime," he said. "The market opportunity is really significant."

According to the analyst team at Dell'Oro, cumulative investments in CBRS equipment are expected to total $1.5 billion to $2.0 billion between 2019 and 2024. “The announcement between Nokia and Key Bridge provides a compelling and timely solution approach for companies who are looking to quickly capitalize on the opportunities CBRS offers,” said Stefan Pongratz, VP at Dell”Oro Group. “This partnership solidifies not only Nokia’s commitment to CBRS but to the broader private wireless opportunity.”