AT&T, Google, Nokia part of ecosystem driving CBRS - analysts

spectrum
CBRS represents 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3.55-3.7 GHz band and is one of the last major spectrum frontiers below 4 GHz. (Pixabay)

Citing a long list of stakeholders—including deep pocketed companies like AT&T, Cisco, Google and Nokia—analysts at Wells Fargo Securities are telling investors that now is the time to pay attention to Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

They also happen to be hosting a conference on Tuesday in New York City where the analysts will be discussing why the dynamic shared spectrum model at the heart of CBRS is such a great opportunity.

The CBRS Alliance, which recently celebrated the initial commercial deployment (ICD) phase of the technology, has built a team of more than 135 corporate supporters and has worked to create a device ecosystem to ensure network deployments are secure and interoperable.

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RELATED: Editor’s Corner—Early CBRS deployments: Indoors or out?

Indeed, the list of CBRS stakeholders is long. Federated Wireless, which will be giving a keynote at the Wells Fargo event, already announced 30 customers in deployment in total and more than 50 enterprise customer logos entering the pipeline. “This is a remarkable stat considering the fact this spectrum is not even yet fully ‘live’ and speaks loudly to the interest from a wide silo of customer segments,” wrote the analysts, led by senior analyst Jennifer Fritzsche.

The General Authorized Access (GAA), or unlicensed, portion of the band is what’s ready first, and the licensed portion will come later. The FCC has kicked off a public comment period for auctioning 70 MHz of CBRS spectrum as Priority Access Licenses (PALs) in June 2020. Comments are due Oct. 28, with reply comments due Nov. 12.

The analysts said they believe there are five use cases driving activity in CBRS spectrum, which may correlate with participants in the PAL auction next year. Those use cases include wireless carriers and cable companies expanding, hardening and offloading their wireless network strategies; examples include AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast and Charter Communications, to name a few.

Fixed wireless broadband deployments, where it’s technically possible, are another use case. The likes of AT&T and Verizon are expected to play there.

In addition, building owners want to bolster mobile service in their venues, such as hospitals and schools. Enterprises are exploring wireless connectivity for new services, and that’s where companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and industrial companies are playing. Finally, the analysts point to testing the technical characteristics of 3.5 GHz spectrum as setting a precedent for C-band spectrum.

“The urgency around this spectrum may be especially high given the uncertainty around the timing, amount and cost of the other mid-band spectrum (C-band),” the analysts said.

However, they noted that in some ways the comparison between the two bands is somewhat of an apples-to-oranges discussion. Either way, both CBRS and C-band spectrum will be “critical components” to the carriers’—and infrastructure providers that serve the carriers—over the coming years as the 5G ecosystem becomes more defined.

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