Fixed wireless ecosystem rallies around 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum

Fixed wireless report from Arris and CableLabs (Arris and CableLabs)
Fixed wireless services typically rely on a neighborhood transmitter communicating with receivers inside or outside of users' homes and offices. (Arris/CableLabs)

A wide range of players in the fixed wireless space are noisily cheering the upcoming release of 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum for commercial use. Specifically, another smaller wireless provider signaled its plans to launch commercial fixed wireless service using the spectrum, while vendors including Ericsson, Nokia and Arris’ Ruckus Wireless received FCC approval for their CBRS equipment.

Such action coincides this week with the Wispapalooza trade show in Las Vegas, an annual gathering of wireless internet service providers hosted by the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA).

Indeed, as noted by the CBRS Alliance, companies ranging from Telrad Networks to CommScope to Federated Wireless to CableLabs’ Kyrio spoke yesterday at the show in an event hosted by the CBRS Alliance and the Wireless Innovation Forum (WInnForum).

A wide range of companies have signaled their interest in CBRS 3.5 GHz spectrum. The FCC is scheduled to vote on final rules for the band later this month, an action that could finally release the spectrum for commercial use as early as later this year. Among the many companies and entities that have signaled their interest in using the spectrum are players like AT&T, which announced deals with Samsung and CommScope to offer fixed wireless services over 3.5 GHz spectrum; the carrier essentially plans to use 3.5 GHz in addition to its 2.3 GHz spectrum for its ongoing fixed wireless rollout.

And today, a small cellular operator in Southeastern Washington and North Central Idaho, Inland Cellular, announced a deal with wireless network company ExteNet Systems to conduct a field trial of CBRS spectrum for fixed wireless services this year, with a commercial rollout scheduled for “early 2019.” The network will use ExteNet's virtualized LTE Evolved Packet Core and Nokia’s RAN equipment.

"At Inland Cellular we are constantly evaluating ways to advance our customer experience and provide our customer base with enhanced service offerings. Applying the CBRS use case to our existing infrastructure seemed like a natural progression for us. We are excited to work with ExteNet on this initial trial and eventual commercial CBRS service rollout for our customers," said Nathan Weis, CEO of Inland Cellular, in a release.

Separately, the CBRS Alliance and the WInnForum pointed to the FCC’s recent certification of initial CBRS equipment from Ericsson, Nokia, Sercomm and Ruckus Networks.

“This major milestone in the commercialization of the CBRS band represents the first of what we believe will be many more certifications announced over the next few months as the industry moves towards initial commercial deployment,” said Lee Pucker, CEO of the Wireless Innovation Forum, in a release.

The CBRS networks built by the likes of AT&T and Island Cellular for fixed wireless service may well need to handle plenty of traffic. According to a new study released by Preseem and cited by Telecompetitor, the average wireless internet customer uses 5.6 GB per day and 167 GB per month—meaning that wireless internet service providers will need to build hearty, resilient networks in order to handle all that traffic.