Motorola anxiously awaits CBRS commercial deployment

Motorola Solutions Nitro platform
Motorola installs and manages the Nitro network for its enterprise customers. (Motorola)

Like a lot of vendors, Motorola Solutions is ready to roll in the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) band as soon as the Federal Communications Commission green-lights commercial services.

Expectations were high that initial commercial deployment (ICD) would have happened by now, but the current thinking is ICD will occur sometime this summer. “We’re anxiously awaiting the start of that,” said Jerry Gard, director of engineering at Motorola Solutions. “We think it’s an exciting technology for the enterprise.”

Gard told FierceWirelessTech that Motorola expects to provide a full set of products, including a variety of devices that include both data and voice. Being a big supplier of push-to-talk (PTT), that will be part of the mix too, with undoubtedly a variety of two-way radio devices and ruggedized smartphones.

“We see an ecosystem of it,” said John Zidar, corporate vice president, North America Commercial, Channel & Carrier, Motorola Solutions. Tablets could be part of the product suite, as well as security cameras with intelligent edge capabilities. “The possibilities are endless.”

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Motorola has been doing numerous trials with CBRS using special temporary authority (STA) experimental licenses. The idea is to have a variety of solutions that can be deployed campus-wide. Besides public safety, Motorola is a supplier to hotels, hospitals, schools, factories, stadiums and arenas—the same types of places ripe for CBRS deployments.

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Earlier this year, Motorola launched MOTOTRBO Nitro, an enterprise voice and private broadband data managed service that the company says offers customers better indoor coverage for voice and data, capable of delivering twice the capacity and up to four times the range compared to Wi-Fi. The private broadband land mobile radio (LMR) solution uses CBRS spectrum to provide customized private networks that deliver both voice and broadband. It combines Motorola’s MOTOTRBO PTT functionality for business-critical voice communications with a private LTE network for data.

Ask folks in the Wi-Fi business if CBRS is a threat and they’re likely to reply that it’s complementary. But some admit to seeing CBRS as the better solution depending on the situation. If the enterprise wants to provide voice services, a system like CBRS that provides voice over LTE might make more sense if the Wi-Fi channels are congested.

“We think the customer experience with a CBRS-based LTE system in a private enterprise is going to be a superior experience to probably what they’re getting today with Wi-Fi,” Gard said. “It’s just another option.”

Motorola Solutions acquired broadband PTT provider Kodiak Networks in 2017, and it has relationships with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint that use Kodiak software; T-Mobile does not.

A supervisor might have a smartphone, for example, with AT&T running a WAVE app on it and using that app, it can connect through a gateway on an LMR or Nitro system and then communicate seamlessly between the smartphone and somebody using a radio. There are various combinations but basically it allows for organizing by work group. If someone is out of LMR coverage, they can use their smartphone to communicate back to the factory or plant. “It’s really an end-to-end, seamless communication ecosystem that we can put together for our customer,” Gard said.

“We see a lot of exciting things that can happen in the CBRS space,” he added. “This is going to be a  very important technology for the enterprise. I think they’re going to get a lot of use out of it. It allows them to be more efficient, to be more productive, and I think we’re just barely scratching the surface on what they’re going to do with this,” including in utilities, oil and gas and other verticals. “This is going to drive a lot of innovation.”