Dish Network and Helium are collaborating to support open source, low-cost wireless connectivity ecosystems, according to Dish. Dish said that it would be the first major carrier to use Helium Network’s blockchain-based incentive model with customers deploying their own 5G CBRS-based hotspots. Dish Network is building a virtualized, standalone 5G broadband network; Helium is known for decentralized unlicensed wireless networks, according to Dish.
“The Helium Network is a consumer-deployed, decentralized wireless infrastructure that produces and delivers data-forwarding hotspots,” a statement from Dish reads. “By installing a hotspot in the home or office, a customer can provide or strengthen 5G wireless coverage using CBRS spectrum. In return, a customer will earn rewards in the form of $HNT, a Helium Network-based token. Powered by the company’s blockchain, the Helium Network is creating a new wireless economy through a breakthrough economic model known as the burn-and-mint equilibrium.
Chris Ergen, head of the Dish Office of Innovation said that blockchain technologies hold potential for the wireless industry.
“Helium is among the leading innovators who have demonstrated that the blockchain incentive works by creating the largest decentralized, unlicensed wireless network across the United States,” Ergen said.
Federated Wireless has brought its CBRS network online in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to deliver service to the region’s wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs), the company said. With the buildout and deployment of its environmental sensing capability (ESC) network, high-speed broadband will now be available in hard-to-reach regions of the area, including those affected by recent hurricanes.
“This new capability also will enable local carriers to enhance network performance through mid-spectrum bandwidth,” a statement from the company reads. The statement said that Federated is a shared spectrum and private network pioneer, and the first to bring a CBRS network online in the two Caribbean territories.
The FCC) announced plans in May 2021 to make the mid-band spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band (3550 to 3700 MHz) available for 5G and other advanced wireless services to an array of operations, clearing the path for commercial deployments in the band in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to Federated.
Customers would be able to use their CBRS private access licenses and the lower 100 megahertz of CBRS to enable new services where there is a great need for reliable, high-performance internet connectivity, according to Don Hutton, Federated Wireless’ senior vice president of sales.
“The expansion of our ESC network into Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands further exemplifies our leadership in CBRS,” Hutton said.
Federated said provides broadband services to multiple customers in the region, including Aeronet, a wireless broadband company serving startups, small and mid-size businesses, corporations and ISPs in Puerto Rico.
“We selected Federated Wireless as our SAS vendor due to their wealth of experience with network building and their premier ESC network,” said Gino Villarini, founder and president of Aeronet. “As a PAL winner, licensed spectrum will help us to guarantee future operations for our customers and further enable their business model in areas lacking connectivity.”
Federated said its ESC network is redundant and hardened to withstand catastrophic weather, such as hurricanes and tropical storms.
“This, combined with its market-leading SAS, hosted on AWS, will enable the delivery of high performance, high reliability connectivity to the internet,” the company statement reads. “The CBRS market leader, Federated Wireless was the first to launch a commercial SAS and ESC network, which have been deployed across several vertical markets with numerous use cases in the continental United States.”
The company said that Federated Wireless has more than 200 customers with about 70,000 connected devices in the United States and its territories. The Federated customer base includes electric co-ops, large interstate gas and electric, oil refineries and Tier 1MNOs, including Verizon Wireless nationwide CBRS 4G and 5G, the company said. It said additional deployments include Tier 1 cable operators and tower companies, and more than 100 regional and rural WISPs.
Electrical utilities need wireless technologies to support the edge architecture required to connect self-sufficient energy systems called microgrids, according to Eve M. Schooler, Ph.D., a principal engineer and director of emerging IoT networks at Intel. Schooler said that private wireless networks could keep track of smart meters and manage distribution automation. Some utilities are looking to private networks for greater control of their wireless networks to reach customers and to meet requirements such as reliability, which are important to them, she said.
Schooler spoke with Monica Paolini, Ph.D., founder of analyst and consulting firm Senza Fili in an online forum Senza Fili calls Sparring Partners.
“We have this opportunity as we roll out new technologies — particularly edge computing and microgrids — to think about the message of sustainability,” Schooler said. “How do we make all of this infrastructure green and carbon-neutral? It is not entirely an easy roll-out. There are many regulatory issues. There will be a demand and a requirement for how carbon-neutral our structures are. We will have to meet requirements to reduce our carbon footprint in the renewables domain.”
Private wireless networks can improve the communications between the utility grids and distributed energy resources, Schooler said. She gave as an example privately owned wind, solar and storage assets.
“Sometimes the utility owns or leases these assets,” she said. “A private 4G or 5G network can give them better coverage and reliability than the public network if they need it and would provide shared data insights derived from these assets.”
According to Paolini, in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service’s Public Access License auction in September 2020, a few utilities paid more in dollars per megahertz-pop than anybody else did, including mobile operators.
“Those utilities saw the value of PAL licenses,” Paolini said. “This was the first time they could gain access to valuable licensed spectrum typically available only to mobile operators. The interest from these utilities in CBRS suggests that they’re not just trying to deploy wireless infrastructure at locations where they operate, but within a wide-area network. With a WAN private network, utilities own the assets and control the network performance, reliability and security.”
Schooler said that the purchase of CBRS PALs queues up the ability for utilities to roll out private wireless networks. She said that 12 utilities purchased PALs to deploy private networks. These utilities can use their PALs to overlay a private wireless network over the disparate wireless technologies for multiple use cases, she said.
According to Paolini, wireless connectivity not only could help utilities become more efficient and sustainable, but also it could create a revenue opportunity that counters a possible reduction in revenue from increased sustainability and efficiency stemming from the adoption of renewables and microgrids.
“Utilities have huge real estate assets everywhere and most importantly in the most coveted, high-density locations,” Paolini said. “Lampposts may be the most prominent example. Many of these assets can be used by mobile operators, wireless internet service providers, cities and others to install wireless infrastructure. They obviously can provide power, but also backhaul, because many utilities also own fiber. With the increased densification of the wireless infrastructure, these assets could be a substantial revenue opportunity for utilities.”
Coverage is one of the motivations to deploy private networks, Schooler said. In a fashion similar to telecommunications companies, utilities need access points and coverage, she said. To do that, Schooler said, they need to put in access points in various places. Utilities can use their existing real estate holdings — electric poles, lampposts and so on — for this infrastructure, and then repurpose it to share with others outside the electric industry, she said.
Senza Fili makes available video and transcripts of its Sparring Partners forum conversations on its website.
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.
In a field trial, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies completed the first over-the-air 5G New Radio (NR) call on CBRS (Citizen Broadband Radio Service) spectrum, according to a statement from Ericsson.
Ericsson said that the combination of 5G NR over CBRS will enable a wide range of new applications for enterprises and industry verticals, which in turn supports the proliferation of private networks, further propelling the Industry 4.0 evolution.
“The promise of 5G NR in the CBRS band offers nearly unlimited potential for enterprise applications and industries,” said Paul Challoner, vice president of network product solutions for Ericsson North America. “This demonstrates our technology leadership and investments to date, and the fruits of our collaboration to drive the promise of private networks in the Industry 4.0 evolution.”
Francesco Grilli, vice president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies said that the 5G NR call over CBRS spectrum was a milestone with Ericsson in enabling the potential of 5G and woud help address the increasing data demand and evolving uses for wireless connectivity among consumers, enterprises, governments and other organizations.
“Qualcomm Technologies has been at the forefront of commercialization of CBRS with support since 2017 in our Snapdragon Mobile Platforms, LTE modems and the Snapdragon X55 and X65 5G Modem-RF Systems,” Grilli said.
CBRS, which uses shared spectrum from 3.55 GHz to 3.7 GHz, has been the catalyst for innovation to expand cellular usage beyond enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) in the United States, the statement reads. Combined with the commercial rollout of Priority Access Licenses (PAL), LTE-based CBRS network deployments are rapidly gaining momentum and proliferating across thousands of sites across the country, it said. The statement said that these sites enable use cases such as fixed wireless access (FWA), mobile network densification and private cellular networks.
“As the rollout of 5G NR network equipment in the CBRS band occurs, private cellular network performance will deliver improved throughput, reduced latency, enhanced reliability and greater connection density, thereby allowing for advanced applications such as mobile robotics, connected manufacturing and facilities and augmented reality industrial applications,” the statement reads. “In addition, the coordination of CBRS and licensed spectrum, such as C-band, through carrier aggregation further delivers increased capacity to enhance the user experience.”
According to Ericsson, with the first over-the-air 5G NR call, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies can deliver the power of 5G NR to CBRS shared spectrum. The field trial took place at Ericsson’s North America headquarters in Plano, Texas, using Ericsson’s 5G distributed innovation networkm together with a smartphone form-factor test device enabled by the Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform and the Snapdragon X60 5G modem-RF system, Ericsson said. The standalone 5G network configuration with rooftop radios allowed for various real-life test scenarios, including intra- and inter-band mobility and carrier aggregation (3.55-3.7 GHz TDD and C-band), as well as mobility between n48 and 5G low-band, or 4G, Ericssson’s statement reads.
Ericsson radios 4408 and AIR 6449 and the smartphone form-factor test device were used for the trial, and the over-the-air environment was made possible with the use of FCC test licenses, Ericsson said.
One of the things that seems to be getting a lot of attention lately is private 5G. Yesterday, I received three separate communiqués about it. Today, two more, one addressing monetizing in the CBRS band, the other addressing vertical opportunities for the carriers.
An interesting observation is that organizations carriers support and that are supported by them, such as WIA, GSM and CTIA, seem to be the more visible ones putting out this information, perhaps trying to make the case for carrier-supported private wireless. Could it be that these players are seeing the potential challenge from unlicensed platforms and starting to do some damage control? Certainly, a question worth pondering.
This is a hot topic for the immediate future, and once it finds equilibrium, will be a significant component of the next generation wireless ecosystem. Not just as a platform, but as a disruptive technology in the comm space, especially once we have expanded the mmWave segment.
In one of my more recent columns, I talked about the fact that the telcos may not end up being the sole or even primary provider of private 5G. By that, I mean they being the ones to provide the spectrum and reap financial rewards or even provide the unlicensed services.
What is challenging them is the potential of unlicensed 5G spectrum and the next generations of Wi-Fi. 6 and 6E are happening, but they do not challenge 5G in performance. Wi-Fi 7, on the other hand, is another story. This is where much of the enterprise is looking.
So, are unlicensed private networks all the rage? Will they take business away from the carriers? It is worth discussing, especially the challenge from Wi-Fi 7.
There are two main issues here – cost and performance. Let us unpack them.
Cost – it would seem this is a no-brainer, but it is not. The costs are not linear, in a sense. By that, I mean that the cost is not just for setting up the network. With carrier-provided networks some of the costs and exclusive features, such as interference mitigation, are built-in.
A carrier-provided private 5G network can be turnkey with the carrier doing all the work. Of course, the customer pays for all of that, and it can be expensive, depending on the size and how tight the specs are for the network. Another big plus is the limitations of private networks (power, adjacent protocols, performance limits) are eliminated with carrier-grade networks.
On the other hand, many enterprises already have a competent IT department that is familiar with wireless networks. For them, it may make sense to explore the self-management options. Additionally, many private networks may not need the bleeding edge, carrier-managed offers.
As well, there are in-betweeners. The bottom line is that there are options. In the end, it will be a tradeoff of costs.
Performance – We are all aware that 5G, once it meets full specs, will be a wireless platform on steroids. The three horsemen (in this case) of the 5G apocalypse are bandwidth, latency and dynamic spectrum management.
However, charging hard is Wi-Fi 7. One would think that, since it is not expected (in its final version) until sometime in 2024, the carriers have a few years to get their act together. While that may be an argument that they can use to sell their product, it is not a cut and dried as it may seem.
First of all, we already have Wi-Fi 6 and 6E. Both of these have significant performance gains over Wi-Fi 5. While there are no statistics that I am aware of on the enterprise upgrade path to Wi-Fi 6, it certainly is on the minds of some of them (at least according to my insignificant minute sampling). It is not unreasonable to expect that Wi-Fi 6 may have sufficient performance improvement for many use cases.
However, Wi-Fi 7 is hardly standing still. The upgrade path from Wi-Fi 6 was part of the evolution of Wi-Fi 6 to seven, and a fair amount of the developing technologies can be implemented in existing Wi-Fi 6 networks (see the timeline below).
Next are the technical specs. 5G is supposed to offer unimaginable performance – up to 4 Gbps in the mmWave spectrum under ideal conditions. For the next few years, until Wi-Fi 7 debuts, in the sub-6 GHz bands speeds will cap out at 400 Mbps (again under ideal conditions) with half that being a realistic target for some time.
mmWave is several years out for any commercial installations, so expect early speeds to cap at a gig or less (still, this is nothing to sneeze at).
The killer spec is latency. One millisecond, or less, is promised, eventually, but that also is years out, except perhaps for specialized applications. Even then, the real number is likely to be closer to 10 ms, under ideal conditions.
However, this spec is somewhat nebulous in a couple of ways. First of all, to hit any type of really low latency requires the network to be fully optimized, with all advanced hardware running on SA. That is not likely to happen for some time. Second, just how important low latency will be for the many use cases is still not well defined.
Additionally, there are new (or evolved) coding, modulation, timing, etc. schemes in the standalone (SA) version. These are the tweaking components that will allow 5G to leapfrog 4G’s specifications.
On the Wi-Fi 7 side, the specs are impressive. While not nearly as top-end as 5G, for many applications, they are more than sufficient. Also, Wi-Fi is more flexible in its specifications (a wider set for more applications). And, no doubt, Wi-Fi 7 will give way to Wi-Fi 8 … 9 … 10 … .
One thing I did not mention earlier is that carriers have the option to integrate Wi-Fi and 5G. That, too, is still in the early stages of development in the 5G space and has not been widely adopted in 4G. So, it has yet to be seen how that will play out. But with the uptick in advanced Wi-Fi, that may become another solution carriers can offer.
The fitness-for-purpose game, as both 5G and Wi-Fi evolve, will be interesting. Who will play where is still a fairly open field. That will only accelerate, once Wi-Fi 7 is GA.
Still, carriers are notorious for missing the bus or calling it wrong. Are they coming around to seeing what the crystal ball is presenting? There are signs. But the rest of the technologies are going to stand still, waiting for them to develop their models. My hope is that it does not turn into a Wi-Fi vs. 5G competition.
Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.