Federated Wireless announced today that it has completed the rollout of its environmental sensing capability (ESC) network, meaning it’s ready to support initial commercial deployment (ICD) of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) across the United States as soon as the Federal Communications Commission gives the green light.
The Federated Wireless ESC network will help ensure that incumbent transmissions are interference-free, while the Federated Wireless Spectrum Controller will dynamically allocate spectrum to users in three tiers: incumbents (including the U.S. Navy), Priority Access Licenses (PALs) and General Authorized Access (GAA).
An auction for the PALs is expected to happen next year, but the GAA portion of the band can proceed to the ICD stage because it doesn't require an auction.
The ESC network consists of sensors located along the coastlines of the U.S. The company doesn’t disclose exactly where these are located but they’re generally designed to detect when a ship is close to shore; Federated Wireless has an operational responsibility to protect the incumbent radars.
Federated Wireless, which was founded in 2012, has been involved in the CBRS industry since the earliest days. The FCC initially approved the CBRS rules back in 2015, but when the Trump Administration took over, the Republican-led commission went back to the drawing board, mainly for the PALs, to ensure the band would be more 5G-friendly. That extended the time it took to prepare the band for commercial operations, but a lot of work continued in the interim. Extensive government testing and the temporary government shutdown earlier this year further extended the timeframe.
All that time required patience but it also allowed Federated to harden its systems.
“It literally took us six years,” including collaborative work the Navy and Department of Defense, according to Iyad Tarazi, president and CEO of Federated Wireless. A lot of due diligence was done and there were at least two redesigns of the ESC. And, when events like Hurricane Michael occurred, the vast majority of its sensors worked, but it also provided feedback that led to new components to ensure they’re ready for the next big weather event.
To get an idea of how rigorous the testing process was to get to this stage: Federated had to go through some 1,300 test cases to ensure its sensors work as required.
Based on public statements made by others in the CBRS ecosystem, Federated Wireless believes it is in the lead, calling its ESC network a world first in terms of production-ready systems.
CommScope and Google each will operate independent Spectrum Access System systems, similar to what Federated Wireless is doing, but they're collaborating on a jointly operated ESC network. CommScope said in March that the expectation is to complete their ESC network by the end of the year.
Federated Wireless already boasts a customer base that includes more than 25 companies spanning the telecom, energy, hospitality, education, retail, office space, municipal and residential verticals and a range of use cases ranging from network densification and mobile offload to private LTE and Industrial IoT.
The plan from the beginning was to make its system telco-grade, which means having "five-nines" reliability.
“It’s a fairly big effort,” Tarazi acknowledged, but “our goal was not to launch until we had the full redundancy and coverage and capability.”