COVID-19 not slowing down CBRS for Federated Wireless

Federated Wireless
Federated Wireless' network operations center (NOC) in based in Arlington, Virginia. (Federated Wireless)

Every so often, Federated Wireless has marked momentum along the way to CBRS commercialization. The company was an early pioneer in the space and worked hard to develop the ecosystem that is now commercial. And while COVID-19 affects everything, it did not take the wind out of Federated’s sails.

“Not at all. We’ve been really, really busy,” said Federated Wireless CTO Kurt Schaubach, who will be among experts talking about CBRS during FierceWireless’ virtual CBRS event this week.

In fact, the pandemic is proving to be a catalyst for broadband improvements and fixed wireless internet service providers (WISPs) are busy deploying at a rapid pace. Much of what they do is outside the home, with CPE mounted on a house, for example, so field technicians, who are considered essential workers, can still do their work.

Federated Wireless runs a network operations center (NOC) in Arlington, Virginia, and it was designed from Day One as a cloud-based system. The type of screen that a NOC technician might see mounted on a wall can easily get moved to their laptops so they don’t miss a beat. Among other things, the NOC is used for monitoring the Environmental Sensing Capabilities (ESC) that allows for the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum to be used while protecting incumbents.

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Meanwhile, Federated’s mobile network operator (MNO) partners continue to deploy CBRS gear to densify their existing networks, and most of that work is done outdoors.

In situations where the deployment is indoors, a lot of work can get done while venues are closed. It’s actually a good time to bring in telecom installers to make system changes when clients aren't using their wireless services. “There’s actually quite a lot of activity going on,” where folks are doing system upgrades and getting ready for re-opening these facilities, he said.

Wireless operators are making use of the unlicensed spectrum, known as General Authorized Access (GAA) in FCC parlance, while they and others prepare to participate in the Priority Access License (PAL) auction due to get underway in July for the licensed use of the band. That auction was pushed back from June 25 to July 23 due to COVID-19.

Outdoors vs. indoors

Currently, the vast majority of CBRS deployments are outdoors. That tracks with the activities that Federated observes by the WISPs and the MNOs. It’s able to measure the outdoor/indoor ratio based on the number of Category A and Category B devices that are on its network, a number that is approaching 15,000.

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Of those, about 80% are outdoors and about 20% are indoors, but that equation is expected to change as more private wireless deployments are done and enterprises deploy inside their facilities.

Category A refers to a lower power base station and Category B refers to a Citizens Broadband Service Device (CBSD) that must be deployed outdoors and has higher maximum power limits compared with Category A devices.