Federated Wireless revs up for commercial CBRS launch in Q4

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Federated Wireless likes to say it’s leading the shared spectrum wave. (FierceWireless)

Federated Wireless is marking two major milestones on its mission to enable opportunities in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) 3.5 GHz band: It submitted a proposal for initial commercial deployment to the FCC and introduced a new training program for certified professional installers of devices.

The FCC put out a public notice in July asking for commercial deployment proposals from conditionally approved Spectrum Access System administrators, of which Federated is one of several. The deadline for those was Sept. 10. 

Federated Wireless has been working in the CBRS space the last several years and it’s gone through many trials and tests to prove it can make this new sharing scheme work—one that hasn't been done before.

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Federated Wireless President and CEO Iyad Tarazi told FierceWirelessTech that through the process, “We’ve been beaten up by the best,” working with leading operators and conducting over 60 trials. The company has been operating at five 9s and six 9s for its service platform for the last nine months, he noted.

RELATED: CBRS band inches closer to deployment

Rather than waiting for the debate around Priority Access Licenses (PALs) to be finalized, Federated Wireless believes the time is right for commercialization in the General Authorized Access portion of the band—and it has clients lined up at the gate. In fact, it’s got more than a dozen customers and 15 OEM partners, and is present in all but three states, but it’s still working on them: “I want to get to all 50,” Tarazi said. Federated also reported a presence in 15,753 total site locations.

A variety of use cases are emerging: mobile offload, cable, fixed wireless, neutral host, indoor/outdoor and more. Venues include shopping malls, sports venues, hotels and restaurants.

About half of the demand for CBRS is coming from people who are getting into wireless in a new way than what's been done thus far in the U.S., like managed services for towers or private LTE for enterprise direct. “All the things we’ve been talking about are happening here,” he said.

Early in the process of developing the CBRS band and associated rules, stakeholders talked about potentially using a similar spectrum sharing model in other bands. Tarazi said Federated engineers are working to make sharing work with a customer in the 37 GHz band, and it’s also working with NTIA and the Department of Defense on the early development for 3.4-3.55 GHz, the 100 megahertz right below CBRS that the government said needed to be studied for sharing.

Federated is also starting to work with a large coalition of industry stakeholders to implement sharing in the 6 GHz band, and it’s doing early work in the U.K. with tests in the 2.3 GHz and potentially the 3.8-4.2 GHz bands.

It’s been a busy five years for Federated Wireless, which has more than $75 million in investments. Charter Communications, American Tower and Arris are among its strategic investors.

Earlier this year, Verizon announced that it had successfully tested LTE over CBRS on a live commercial network in Florida, partnering with Federated Wireless, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies. Federated also has commercial partnerships with Telrad, Airspan, Blinq, Zinwave and others.

Tarazi confirmed the company is on track for early 2019 availability of the Environmental Sensing Control network, which involves sensors strategically placed along the nation’s coastlines to detect radar from incumbent users. Currently it’s in the deployment stage.

“CBRS is turning out to be a diverse sandbox, with participation by players in at least five different business models: mobile operators, MVNOs, neutral host players, Private-LTE, and fixed wireless access. To facilitate more innovation in multiple market sectors, it’s great to see the scope and scale behind Federated Wireless’ launch,” said Joe Madden, principal analyst and president of Mobile Experts, in a statement. “Compared with the initial small cell launches by mobile operators, this is gigantic.”

Clearly, CBRS commercialization is moving ahead at a nice clip despite delays in the PAL portion.

“I’m gratified by the scope,” Tarazi said. “I think there’s a lot of potential to grow from here.”