FedEx has been studying the use of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) for quite a while now, but it’s asking the FCC for an extension of tests at FedEx facilities in Memphis, Tennessee.
According to the application, the trial consists of four fixed-site base stations and up to 40 mobile devices operating within the area of the base stations. All of the base station equipment is prototype hardware, controlled and owned by Nokia.
The current plan is to operate the LTE uplink/downlink 24 hours per day, seven days a week, starting April 19 and lasting to Oct. 8.
FedEx said the use case is for aircraft maintenance technicians using tablets equipped with CBRS modems while working on FedEx aircraft to connect to antennas mounted on existing poles.
FedEx was granted permission by the FCC last year to conduct tests, but that allowance was set to expire on April 7, 2019.
The courier company has said an extension is “critical to the continued exploration of additional use cases for security cameras for worker safety and others, as well as moving to a different frequency range and testing new transmitters. In extension of the study, additional coverage and performance measurements will be conducted to determine the feasibility of this network access method.”
The main objectives of the tests at FedEx's Superhub location are to prove that private LTE over CBRS can be used as a superior mobile connectivity technology for increasing enterprise operations efficiency, improving technician safety and enhancing overall communications.
The involvement of FedEx in the CBRS space is to be expected given its history using emerging wireless technologies and the types of use cases envisioned for private CBRS LTE networks. It’s also noteworthy given the CBRS industry is nearing its official take-off. It’s been years in the making, but the General Authorized Access (GAA), or the unlicensed tier, is expected to be available shortly.
During a keynote at the 4 Wireless Connect 2019 event last Thursday, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly noted that significant progress has been made in the testing phases of the Spectrum Access System (SAS) and Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) systems that will enable sharing of the 3.5 GHz spectrum, including with the U.S. Navy incumbents.
“Three ESC operators have completed testing, have submitted their reports, and the FCC should finish its review shortly, allowing for the certification of the ESC systems. SAS testing is still being conducted, but initial commercial deployments will hopefully happen in the June timeframe,” he said in prepared remarks.
The Dell’Oro Group recently released the results of a five-year CBRS forecast report, where it found that Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) will drive the lion’s share of CBRS capex over the near-term. The overall CBRS RAN market is expected to grow at a rapid pace between 2019 and 2023, with cumulative investments surpassing $1 billion over the next five years.