Industry Voices—Mun: CBRS and the handy-dandy 'Cell-o-Matic'

There is still ample opportunity for further mobile infrastructure investments, especially indoors. (Pixabay)
Kyung Mun

The expression “o-matic” has become a part of Americana through many TV infomercials over the years ranging from “Slice-o-matic” vegetable slicers to the “Beer-o-Matic” vending machine that dispenses, yes, you guessed it, beer. 

Of course, we can’t leave out the infamous SNL “Bass-o-matic” skit. (For those who may be wondering what “Bass-o-matic” is, search online for the video; it’s worth a detour.) In summary, the “o-matic” expression is often associated with an invention that automates or eases a certain task.

In the mobile/wireless context, CBRS is viewed by a diverse group of constituents as that “magical” technology solution that can instantiate cost-effective “carrier-grade” wireless network and ease the growing wireless need. With the recent announcements of major carrier trials and interoperability testing by RAN vendors and SAS providers, the stage is being set for CBRS commercialization. 

As we wrote in our CBRS white paper a year ago, several interesting applications and business models are driving the ecosystem: 1) mobile operator capacity augmentation; 2) new entrant/cable operator MVNO offload; 3) neutral host in-building wireless; 4) fixed wireless access; and 5) enterprise private LTE networks. 

The diversity of applications and constituents ranging from large and small carrier service providers to enterprises makes CBRS so interesting and complex. While the industry awaits the final word from the FCC on spectrum license area size and term duration, all indications point to the commercialization moving forward. The SAS and ESC providers have been getting their systems ready to ease the use of the shared CBRS bands and are eager to start commercial deployments, as are small cell vendors who have been fine-tuning their gear and tailoring their service offerings for each business model.

Verizon’s decision to utilize CBRS for outdoor densification bodes well for the other CBRS application use casesas it implies that underlying chipset and device ecosystems will be in place to support the core mobile operator use case. This, in turn, can “bootstrap” the ecosystem to expand to the enterprise and industrial use cases. The chipset/device vendor can easily create module solutions for industrial CPEs in conjunction with developing smartphones. We believe CBRS represents an opportunity for the industry to expand beyond the core operator use cases to other vertical markets including enterprises and industrial applications. 

There is still ample opportunity for further mobile infrastructure investments, especially indoors. The mobile operators will only invest in outdoor and busy indoor locations. We need enterprises, neutral hosts, and other service providers to invest in countless indoor projects, and we need the mobile operators to allow all of these alternative small cells to connect with their core networks.

Spreading the investment activities across more players including enterprises and industrial players is required to truly achieve the “gigabit everywhere” aspiration the industry marches toward. May the CBRS become the “Cell-o-matic” for all those who are interested.

Kyung Mun is a senior analyst at Mobile Experts LLC. Mobile Experts is a network of market and technology experts that provides market analysis on the mobile infrastructure and mobile handset markets. Over the course of his 20+ years in wireless and cable industries in a dynamic range of roles from engineering to product management and technology strategy, Mun has contributed to the advancement of mobile communication while working at leading companies in the mobile value chain including Motorola, Texas Instruments, Alcatel-Lucent and a few startups in between. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and Georgia Tech, and studied finance and strategy at Southern Methodist University.

"Industry Voices" are opinion columns written by outside contributorsoften industry experts or analystswho are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.