While the industry waits for the government to provide what amounts to the final certification for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band to launch commercially, this year’s hurricane season is giving companies like Federated Wireless a taste of how well their sensor networks are holding up.
Included in the Spectrum Controller that Federated is making available for CBRS is a component known as the Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC), which essentially relies on a redundant network of sensors that identify and protect the federal agencies already using the 3.5 GHz band to make sure defense and government communications aren’t impacted by commercial users.
Federated’s sensors have been positioned on rooftops along the nation's coastlines with a line of sight to the coast so they can listen for radar. So far, the deployment of the sensor network is about 80% complete, with an expectation to be 100% done by March, covering the entire continental U.S., according to Federated Wireless President and CEO Iyad Tarazi.
“We have built it with triple redundancy to make it very, very reliable,” he told FierceWirelessTech.
During Hurricane Michael—when the Florida Panhandle was clocking 155 mph winds—two out of 12 sensors in the area were impacted by the storm, but not to a point that would have impaired the overall network. “That was a pretty good test for us,” and they learned some things that will go toward further hardening of the network, he said.
Federated Wireless has been building the sensor network to meet carrier-grade requirements (like five 9s reliability) and for density and reliability from day one, so it will not need to go back to add more sensors later. Once the continental U.S. is covered, it will go to Hawaii and after that, as demand dictates, Alaska and Puerto Rico.
The entire CBRS industry has been champing at the bit to launch commercially before the end of this year, while the government is required to make sure it all works smoothly. NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), which is the organization conducting CBRS tests, has said it’s working to make sharing in the band a reality as soon as possible, but the length of time the ITS has taken triggered some concerns that the momentum behind 3.5 GHz services could be lost.
Federated Wireless has several customers that are ready to launch, but they’re waiting for the final FCC approval. Tarazi told FierceWirelessTech that he’s not sure the final OK will come before the end of the year or early next year, but he’s ready for this phase to be over.
“We’ve been tested by the big carriers and by the cable companies,” he said. “We’ve done tons of trials, there’s a lot of testing,” and it appears that the situation is one of mechanics and diligence rather than a serious exploration of whether the sharing system will work. Some skeptics had called the CBRS system in the U.S. an “experiment” because it hasn’t been done before. But Tarazi said he’s confident in the system; Federated’s Spectrum Controller went through more than 50 technology trials and field deployments and four years of R&D.
To show just what can be done now with CBRS, Federated will be taking part in a demo this week at AWS re:Invent along with AWS, Ruckus Networks and Athonet. They’re going to launch a fully cloud-native private mobile network for developers so they can quickly develop industrial IoT applications. About 100 developers will get AWS DeepLens cameras that will be connected to CBRS.
While this week’s demo is with AWS, other cloud providers are also participating in the CBRS space. The CBRS Alliance now has more than 110 members, and just in the last three months, there’s been a tremendous amount of activity, Tarazi said. There’s a general feeling that they’re in the home stretch and more people are having operational and deployment-oriented conversations.
“We’ve seen a huge pickup since September in the market. There’s no question,” he said. “It’s all good. We just want to finish the testing thoroughly and properly, but we want to finish. And I think I speak for everyone when I say that.”