Stéphane Daeuble: Bridging the Digital Divide with Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service: Broadband Breakfast

For many Americans in underserved areas, the hub of living online during the pandemic has put them at a severe disadvantage. Without broadband access, they had no way of working from home, zooming in with family, participating in online classes, or accessing telehealth resources. The recent federal infrastructure bill will help address this challenge, as broadband may soon be available to many of the 30 million Americans who are currently without it. One of the technologies that will help achieve this is citizen broadband radio service.

Although the extension of broadband is often thought of in terms of fiber optic installation, there are extreme cases where lack of subscriber density or other economic considerations make it difficult to justify the cost of installation. installation of any type of wiring. While it most often affects rural areas, it also affects suburban and dense urban areas. An alternative for the last mile is fixed wireless access, but the mobile spectrum normally used by private wireless 4G (LTE) or 5G can be too expensive for these low-margin use cases. This is why FWA and CBRS turn out to be a perfect marriage.

Enter the citizen broadband radio service

First launched in 2017, CBRS is the United States’ unique approach to sharing radio spectrum that was underutilized by the US Navy for coastal radars and military satellite ground stations. As part of the sharing system, service providers can use the spectrum (3.5-3.7 GHz) to provide other types of wireless services. The industry has developed a new system to detect when incumbents, such as the US Navy’s radar, are using spectrum to ensure that other spectrum users are not interfering with them.

Of the various uses, the greatest interest has been the provision of mobile broadband services using 4G / LTE or 5G. Operators such as Verizon have purchased CBRS licenses to supplement their existing spectrum, while cable companies such as Comcast will use it to enter the mobile services game.

Additionally, a variety of managed service and utility providers will use it to provide industrial wireless connectivity for sensor networks, various stand-alone technologies, and other Industry 4.0 applications.

All of the above relates to the CBRS Priority Access License, which has been auctioned for regional licenses like traditional spectrum. There is also spectrum available for general authorized access in the bands not allocated to historical users and not interfering with priority licensed users, which is open to any business in a specified area, after registration.

Cross the divide

Beyond the big players, small independent market operators, often rural service providers and wireless internet service providers, emerged during the PAL auctions of the CBRS spectrum and took an interest in CBRS FWA to extend their last mile. cover. LTE and 5G have FWA specifications that can be used with the CBRS – CBRS PAL or CBRS GAA spectrum. CBRS has a higher capacity than frequencies typically used for mobile radio coverage in rural areas, such as the 600 and 700 MHz bands, although it requires higher gain antennas to achieve decent coverage over distance. .

For rural broadband providers who cannot justify extending their fiber optic or coaxial infrastructure to remote subscribers, CBRS FWA looks promising as WISPs will be able to serve many more customers than they can using Wi-Fi, for example. The first tests presented at the 2019 Fall Tech Forum showed that it is possible to achieve 25-50 Mbps on the downlink and 3 Mbps on the uplink within 5 miles of the antenna using LTE. Snow and rain have little measurable effect on the signal, but terrain and foliage must be considered in the design of the cover.

One of the advantages of CBRS is that the equipment of the FWA home customer premises is relatively inexpensive and quick to install. In typical rural applications, it will require a technician to install the CPE 15-25 feet off the ground on the side of the house or a small pole to ensure a line of sight. In urban applications, however, the CPE can be installed by the subscriber, placed out of sight when it is within 2 miles of the transmitter, and next to the window if it is further from the tower. radio. Simple gateway devices generally provide Wi-Fi coverage in the house.

Rural, suburban and urban

The CBRS FWA is also of interest to groups as diverse as rural real estate developments and school boards. Older retiree communities, for example, can now upgrade their development with inexpensive broadband services, without having to install coaxial cable or fiber. School boards can reach students to provide online education and resources. The school simply distributes inexpensive CBRS CPEs to its students.

Image courtesy of Nokia

One of the goals of the Federal Communications Commission when designing the CBRS sharing system was to make wireless broadband more accessible. It was recognized that innovation, learning and exploration is now happening over broadband and that various communities across the country are being held back. The pandemic has dramatically underscored this need, and the first indication is that CBRS will play an important role in overcoming this digital divide and enabling a more inclusive society.

Stéphane Daeuble is responsible for marketing enterprise solutions at Nokia. Daeuble’s business acumen and technical understanding stems from his previous roles in several industrial automation, energy, IT, networking and telecommunications companies, with roles spanning a number of different areas such as product management, sales development and product marketing. At Nokia, and formerly Motorola, Daeuble has successively led the global marketing of 3G / HSPA, LTE and Small Cells products. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts comments from observers of the broadband scene. Please send articles to [email protected] The opinions expressed in expert opinion articles do not necessarily reflect those of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.


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