Cambium pushes pedal on CBRS with 20K devices deployed

Cambium said fixed wireless connectivity is the leading use case for customers deploying its CBRS devices. (Getty Images)

Cambium Networks said market adoption for fixed wireless services using CBRS spectrum is speeding ahead, with around 20,000 of the wireless networking provider’s CBRS devices already deployed.

Those span more than 150 service provider customers, who are using devices for broadband over shared spectrum in the 3.55-3.7 GHz band.

Fixed wireless connectivity is the leading use case in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band for its device deployments, Cambium said, where customers are leveraging fixed wireless to add capacity to rural and suburban broadband access. The band is also in play for private LTE networks for enterprise and government, as well as supplementing mobile operators’ networks with additional FWA and mid-band spectrum.

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While the FCC’s auction for Priority Access Licenses (PALs) is currently underway, CBRS spectrum is already available for commercial use under General Authorized Access (GAA). Verizon is one of the many participants vying for PALs, but RootMetrics testing in July suggested the carrier was already accelerating 3.5 GHz deployments in the GAA portion.

Cambium first announced services for CBRS in February, but said it had been working on the band well before in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission, WISPA, WinnForum, and the CBRS Alliance.

The company offers an end-to-end outdoor fixed wireless broadband solution, based on the PMP 450m platform and incorporating Cambium’s cnMedusa massive multiuser MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology. Cambium is not a CBRS Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrator, but it offers SAS services through a cloud-based management system.

Cambium customers can upgrade devices and migrate to CBRS with an over-the-air software upgrade. Its software-defined radio design is part of why customer transitions to CBRS are already complete or are underway, the company said.

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Under the new sharing paradigm of the 3.5 GHz band, current licensees in the 3.65 GHz portion operating under the FCC’s Part 90 rules must migrate their services and equipment to CBRS band standards by October 17. The original deadline was in mid-April, but the FCC granted a temporary extension for some, including WISPs and electric utilities, so that they could stay focused on providing broadband services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before CBRS came to be, there were already around 125,000 Cambium Part 90 devices (also called “3.65”) deployed, which the provider said makes the software upgrade capability particularly attractive. Those that don’t transition before the deadline have to either stop operating or face a rush to migrate to CBRS, Cambium added.

Of the 20,000 devices, the majority (between 80-90%) were existing deployments that migrated from the old Part 90 rules to Part 96 via a software upgrade, according to a spokesperson. 

“CBRS spectrum is a precious natural resource, and effectively exercising it requires long-term planning and vision,” Cambium Networks CEO Atul Bhatnagar said in a statement.  

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“Having that combination of vision, services and experience makes it very clear to us that operators must act now, both to take advantage of CBRS opportunities already in play and to avoid missing the opportunity before the deadline,” Bhatnagar continued.

Cambium has also worked with Google and Federated Wireless, two of five certified SAS administrators. The other three are Amdocs, Commscope, and Sony.

Federated worked with Cambium on the CBRS band as far back as March 2019 when the pair agreed to partner to help operators deliver fixed wireless broadband services using the CBRS band.

Updated to include information about percentage of existing deployment upgrades. 

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