The FCC recently auctioned off Priority Access Licenses (PAL) for the 3550-3650 MHz portion of the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band. It was announced that this auction raised more than $4.5 billion in bids. This is big money.
Now the question is how will the winning bidders make the most out of the spectrum to which they gained priority access?
When it comes to using CBRS spectrum, there are three common use cases, which heavily depend on the nature of the winning bidder:
- Tier-1 MNOs typically use CBRS bands, both PAL and General Authorized Access (GAA), to increase capacity in their networks, in order to answer the ever-growing demand for data as their networks evolve from 4G to 5G.
- MSOs, ISPs, CLECs, and rural operators utilize CBRS spectrum in order to extend their footprint and service offering, as a complementary solution to other access methods.
- Critical-infrastructure, enterprise and other private network operators usually utilize CBRS bands for internal purposes, but often augment those with some new service offering for external customers.
Extending service footprint and breadth
While the first use case is rather trivial, the second one presents a unique opportunity alongside some new challenges.
MSOs, ISPs, CLECs and rural operators can utilize CBRS bands to extend their service breadth and reach, address new target markets, and create, at the end of the day, new revenue streams.
These types of operators usually have an existing access method (or methods) to reach their customers. Networks architectures – such as hybrid fiber/coax (HFC), leased/owned FTTX, wireless point-to-multipoint, or wireless point-to-point – are used to provide triple-play services to residential and business customers.
These existing access methods, however, come with some limitations, including limited reach, high cost of expansion, limited capacity, and, in some cases, low availability.
When it comes to network expansion, CBRS spectrum creates a unique opportunity to remove those constraints. Using CBRS-based fixed wireless access (FWA) architecture and services, new geographical target markets can be served with broadband services with a fairly low cost and time to market.
PAL access to CBRS spectrum provides high capacity and high reliability with quick coverage, which can result in significant business value to the service provider – provided some unique challenges are resolved.
Resolving CBRS challenges, unlocking CBRS potential
There are two main challenges when it comes to deploying FWA services with CBRS spectrum:
- Rapid and efficient deployment and connectivity of access sites
- Efficient and optimized management of spectrum resources to provide the highest QoS to residential and business customers
Meeting these two challenges positively affects both customer acquisition rates (which shortens time to revenue) and customer satisfaction levels (which lowers churn rates and raises ARPU).
Regarding the first challenge, rapid and efficient deployment of access sites is highly dependent on two factors – site acquisition and site connectivity. In order to optimize the access site acquisition process, access and transport solutions should be compact, all-outdoor, easy to install and highly reliable. Choosing such access and transport solutions may reduce site acquisition time by up to 50%.
Prompt site connectivity is achieved, once again, by an easy-to-deploy, ultra-high-capacity and all-outdoor wireless transport solution, which can shorten the site connectivity process from months to weeks and even days, while significantly lowering TCO.
The second challenge is a bit trickier, as the total amount of capacity per sector is limited by the shared spectrum available for the sector. A 40MHz typical CBRS PAL allocation, for instance, will yield about 800mbps for the entire sector. Once the capacity potential is exhausted, service degradation occurs as customers receive lower-capacity, higher-latency and non-SLA service.
In this case, a hybrid access architecture can significantly improve both spectrum utilization and QoS. In this architecture, a high-usage customer or building, which “drains” the sector’s resources, is offloaded utilizing a point-to-point wireless connection (usually utilizing E-Band). E-band allows cost-efficient point-to-point connectivity of 2.5Gbps (and, if needed, up to 20Gbps). In this way, CBRS spectrum is better utilized and a high level of QoS is maintained.
To simplify your CBRS network deployment and to unlock its business potential, you can leverage Ceragon’s extensive experience with these kind of challenges, along with our unique solutions and “plan-to-maintain” service suite.
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