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CBRS 5G RAN Investments Could Approach $1 Billion: Dell’Oro Group

CBRS market sentiment remains healthy, and cumulative 2020-2025 CBRS 5G radio access network (RAN) investments are projected to range from $500 million to $1 billion, according to a five-year forecast issued by Dell’Oro Group in July.

The report reflects some reduction in the near-term, owing to slower than expected year-to-date LTE CBRS base station adoption. Also, the report indicates that activity is on the rise with uses for CBRS forming in multiple vertical markets, adding to confidence that enterprise and private deployments will encompass a greater share of the CBRS market .

The forecast projects that LTE will be responsible for the lion’s share of investments in the near term, and 5G new radio (NR)-based CBRS capital expense (capex) spending will dominate by 2025.

“The size of the CBRS RAN market in the outer years remains fairly unchanged, with CBRS RAN revenue accounting for 5 percent of the North American RAN (CBRS, millimeter-wave and other sub-6 GHz) market by 2025,” a statement from Dell’Oro Group reads. “Fixed wireless access and capacity augmentation for mobile broadband applications are dominating the CBRS RAN capex mix initially, while the enterprise share is expected to improve in the outer part of the forecast period.”

Source: Dell’Oro Group

Rural Telecom: CBRS for Network-building, Federal Money for Funding

By Don Bishop

Bill Baker (left), CEO of Nextlink Internet, and Jeff Johnston, lead economist for communications at CoBank.

Providing fixed wireless access and fiber-to-the-home telecommunications service in rural Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois makes Nextlink Internet what its CEO, Bill Baker, calls a hybrid provider. Baker spoke during an AGL Virtual Summit in June at the session, “Rural Coverage Opportunities and Challenges,” moderated by Jeff Johnston, a lead economist for communications at CoBank, a national cooperative bank that provides credit to the U.S. rural economy.

Johnston asked Baker whether service offered through Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), through private networks or roaming agreements, would help to defray some costs associated with building networks in high-cost areas.

Baker said that although CBRS has potential, operators using CBRS cannot accomplish the higher-use features of CBRS with what he referred to as non-carrier-grade equipment.

“In doing things like being a roaming service on the wholesale side doing private networks, you can scrape off a lot of the mom-and-pop operators,” Baker said. “They’re not going to have the sophistication or the capital, or have the kind of gear that’s capable and doing those things, when you talk about private networks.”

Oil companies in West Texas, the Dakotas and parts of Oklahoma bought many CBRS Private Access Licenses (PALs) just to have their own dedicated spectrum in the oil shale field for monitoring services on their equipment, rather than using unlicensed 5 GHz equipment, Baker said. He explained that CBRS has corporate and industrial uses, and it will depend on who wants to get into the roaming and the private network aspect. “We use carrier-grade gear, so that’s something we are looking at,” he said.

With CBRS, it is easier to achieve a roaming outcome than a private network, Baker said, because a private network might be extremely localized with a corporate partner or perhaps a municipality that wants to use it across their offices and a county area. The dynamics differ, he said, adding that Nextlink Internet is one of the largest CBRS frequency owners in the United States with a dominant footprint in the central United States.

“We believe that CBRS is an unbelievable tool in the toolkit when it comes to rural fixed wireless where you can have effectively licensed 100 by 20 service capable of penetrating tree canopy,” he said, referring to internet speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload. “There’s a lot of different speed requirements bandied out there in various federal, state and local programs, but probably the most common is the 100 by 20 speed tier. That’s the required speed tier if you’re going to get Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) funding on a broadband project, for instance.” RDOF is an FCC initiative designed to inject billions of dollars into the construction and operation of rural broadband networks.

“That’s where we see CBRS playing an important role,” Baker said, “especially getting away from some of the challenges of 5 GHz unlicensed operation in rural markets.”

Johnston said he hadn’t realized that it was such a leap for a smaller wireless internet service provider (WISP) that had been deploying unlicensed 5 GHz over Wi-Fi to change to a CBRS carrier-grade type of network implementation.

“Oh yeah, just the technical operational aspects, forget about the capital,” Baker said. “If you take one of the most common 5 GHz fixed wireless gear setups that most small WISPs use, to equip a tower is going to cost you $1,000 versus the likely price that same tower would be if you’re a non-volume buyer of CBRS carrier-grade equipment from one of the big boys — Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung — you’re talking about north of $50,000 to equip that tower. That’s not even remotely comparable. If you’re buying at scale, you can get that price down. But it’s still radically more expensive to operate CBRS than it is 5 GHz.”

Baker said that a typical list of WISPs will continue to operate at 5 GHz, and perhaps they will deploy some lower-end CBRS equipment. He said that 6 GHz availability probably will come out in 2022, and that 6 GHz would fundamentally replace the 5 GHz gear. “You’ll see a massive forklift in rural America, from the 5 GHz operators as they move to 6 GHz,” he said.

Elaborating on the subject of government-provided funding for rural broadband connectivity, Baker said, “All of these funds are a wonderful idea. However, the devil is in the details. Who decides how the funds are used and which underserved communities get the benefit?’

Baker said that Nextlink Internet is a Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase 2 grant recipient and a provisional Rural Digital Opportunity Fund grant recipient, a likely state recipient and almost certainly a county recipient of Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funds.

“There are so many programs flowing right now, and each program, whether it’s federal, state or local, has its own methodology determining what’s unserved, underserved, how they want, what do they want to see it served with,” Baker said. “It is really all over the board right now.”

Some programs do not want to stack, Baker said, for instance, state or county money on a federally funded project area. “Conversely, some programs want to stack money on top of a federal area and make that federal recipient — you may have a six-year deployment obligation — to do it in 18 months instead,” he said. “They’re paying that guy to go fast.”

Many factors affect what projects receive funding and how the projects are funded, Baker said. “Everyone’s focused on the White House infrastructure bill, but right now, between the state funds to ARC funds to RDOF funds, you can’t help but be getting better internet, if you’re out in a rural area.”

For the June 8 AGL Virtual Summit, Total Tech sponsors included Raycap, Valmont Site Pro 1, Vertical Bridge and B+T Group. Tech sponsors included Alden Systems and Aurora Insight. Viavi Solutions sponsored the keynote address. Additional sponsors included Gap Wireless, NATE, VoltServer and WIA.

Sharpe Smith programmed the Summit, and Kari Willis hosted. AGL Media Group has scheduled the next AGL Virtual Summit for Sept. 8. To register, click here.


Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.

Eyes on Data Centers: How a Tower Company Sees ROI Opportunity

By Don Bishop

The American Tower data center business includes six edge data centers strategically located at the network’s edge in an effort to achieve data efficiency and optimization with network architecture and compute power. The edge data centers use ground space at macro tower locations in Broomfield and Denver, Colorado; Austin, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; Atlanta; and Pittsburgh.  The company owns a large collocation data center in Atlanta called Metro Data Center (formerly Colo Atl).

Ed Knapp (left), chief technology officer at American Tower, and Spencer Kurn, an analyst at New Street Research.

According to Ed Knapp, chief technology officer at American Tower, “more data centers are in the pipeline with partners.” He said the company has been talking about providing data center facilities for a number of years. Knapp spoke during an AGL Virtual Summit in June at the session, “Increasing ROI at the Tower,” moderated by Spencer Kurn, an analyst who leads coverage of U.S. towers for New Street Research.

Knapp explained that a micro edge center, placed the base of a tower, occupies about 10 standard racks. “We’ve talked about what the economics per rack is and how many of those you can ultimately see in the long run,” he said. “However, those were initially experimental where we went out and looked at properties that fit the needs of owned land and in the right space, and the right connectivity and an operator environment there. Then, we went ahead and built those.”

American Tower’s Metro Data Center in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of American Tower

In the past few months, Knapp said, the company has added power capacity to the Metro Data Center, tripling the power in the downtown Atlanta facility. He said many interconnection points of fiber providers in the Southeast connect there. He said that facility gave American Tower a good perspective of the far edge along with the metro edge that feeds northbound into the hyperscalers and mobile network operators (MNOs).

“The way you have to think about the market is today, there’s an opportunity for distributed compute,” Knapp said. “Can you provide power, and can you provide space on a pro rata basis for colo that’s proximate? Although there’s demand for that for certain enterprises, that’s the first step.”

The second step involves the telco cloud, Knapp said. He explains that what happens is that operators try to invest in computing functions that handle the radio and access network and the core network functions as they move progressively to the edge. “Think of those as the U’s and C’s in the classic 5G set,” he said. “That’s the second wave.”

The third wave, Knapp said, comes once 5G is built out widely, with the need to fill in applications in the mobile edge compute — the net function.

“That’s how it will move from where it is today,” he said. “It’s super-regional level with wavelength and with what Verizon and others have deployed. As that has to progress further to the edge to get from the latencies today that are on the order of tens of milliseconds down to the sub-10-millisecond or even sub-5-millisecond latency.”

American Tower’s edge data center in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo courtesy of American Tower

Bringing the discussion to the topic of return on investment (ROI), Knapp said that thinking about the new data center technology is one thing, but also it is important to think about workflows and how to integrate the new processes associated with data centers.

“We have things like these subscriber identification modules (SIMs),” he said. “You’re managing this data center, and you now have different assets you have to take care of. You have different internet of things (IoT) and sensors that you need to feed to —or not. These are all things that need to be tied together, and the data center needs to be tied back to the other departments. For example, the finance department wants to know what’s the lifecycle of the asset, and all that comes back to ROI. We’re trying to hit double-digit ROI C’s, and we need to get the lease up in those new assets, but they have different sets of customers, different timelines and different requirements.”

American Tower has a large, suburban, rural tower portfolio in the United States, Knapp said, and the company continues to look for ways to economically get to the edge of coverage to fill in. He mentioned government opportunities coming in with the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, an FCC initiative designed to inject billions of dollars into the construction and operation of rural broadband networks.

“There are a lot of ideas around fixed wireless,” Knapp said. “We’re starting to see applications in that space. These are on top of the inundation of a large number of demands from the core three plus one that those requirements of building out the wide area of mid-band 5G, is really going hot and heavy. That’s part of what everybody’s looking at,” he said, referring to AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile as the core three and Dish Network as the plus one.

The other ways 5G will move to the edge of the network in to rural areas involve potential fixed wireless improvements used to deliver connectivity more cost effectively than fiber, Knapp said. “We’re starting to see applications in that space, as well.”

Knapp gave a nod to the use of Citizens Broadband Radio Service frequencies as offering business expansion and ROI opportunity. “With General Authorized Access licenses, anybody can set up shop,” he said. “The Priority Access Licenses issued last fall are starting to make their way into the marketplace. Capital is readily available, and folks are signing up and applying. We see demand for those types of assets, as well. It’s a dynamic market between the mainstream carriers and these other folks including cable companies and, potentially, government entities.”

For the June 8 AGL Virtual Summit, Total Tech sponsors included Raycap, Valmont Site Pro 1, Vertical Bridge and B+T Group. Tech sponsors included Alden Systems and Aurora Insight. Viavi Solutions sponsored the keynote address. Additional sponsors included Gap Wireless, NATE, VoltServer and WIA.

J. Sharpe Smith programmed the Summit, and Kari Willis hosted. AGL Media Group has scheduled the next AGL Virtual Summit for Sept. 8. To register, click here.

Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.

Redline Communications, Morcom International Provide Wireless Connectivity to Arlington County, Virginia

Redline Communications Group and Morcom International have installed Redline’s 3GPP iLTE network in Arlington County, Virginia.

“This industrial-grade broadband wireless solution utilizes the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum and provides improved broadband access, increased network stability and reliability, and minimal latency for real-time applications,” a statement from Redline reads. Redline is in the business of providing industrial wireless broadband network connectivity for mission-critical applications, Morcom designs and implements broadband wireless infrastructure systems. The statement said that Redline and Morcom completed the project’s first phase in a third of the time it usually takes to execute and deploy such projects.

According to Redine, the initial goal of Arlington County was to offer remote connectivity to educators as they sought to provide broadband internet access for remote learning to teachers and students throughout the county’s school system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Arlington County has been impressed by Redline’s and Morcom’s responsiveness and overall support of the county to date,” said Jack Belcher, Arlington County’s chief information officer. “The throughput capacity has been most evident in the speed with which they installed critical internet connections for educators — all under the CARES Act deadline.”

The CARES Act provides $31 billion in emergency funding to students, schools, institutions and states and gives states $13 billion to support school districts.

Arlington County has taken on operations and maintenance of the network itself minimizing the operating expense of the network, Redline disclosed. This step included the county acquiring its own private Redline FlexCore Evolved Packet Core (EPC) server via the infrastructure arrangement.

Reno Moccia, executive vice president of sales at Redline Communications Group (left), and Manuel Ojeda, founder and chief technology officer at Morcom International.

“The term, mission-critical, really begins in the classroom, whether it’s distance learning or on-site learning applications,” said Reno Moccia, Redline executive vice president of sales and marketing. “Redline is pleased to support Arlington County’s overall dedication to shared broadband wireless access and to connectivity, indoors or outdoors — and we look forward to our continued relationship.”

Manuel Ojeda, Morcom’s founder and chief technology officer, said that the COVID pandemic necessitated a great deal of agility in the design and implementation of this service.

Source: Redline Communications

CBRS Network Lands at Marine Corps Warehouse in Georgia

By The Editors of AGL

A group of wireless technology companies — JMA, Federated Wireless, Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Vectrus and Perspecta Labs — have deployed a Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS)-enabled private 5G wireless network at the Marine Corps Logistics Command warehouse in Albany, Georgia. This new private network will support a broad set of smart warehouse use cases, including warehouse robotics, barcode scanning, and virtual reality applications.

“As a U.S.-based manufacturer and innovator, JMA was excited to be a part of an all-American team accelerating the adoption of 5G for our military’s logistics, warehousing, and maintenance,” a company spokesman said. “JMA’s software solution, XRAN, will give the base’s network an unprecedented level of flexibility. Instead of expensive hardware replacements every three to five years to keep up with technological advancements, XRAN will allow the network to quickly and continually evolve through simple software updates–all while matching the performance of the best custom hardware.”

This solution will usher in a new era of innovation and connectivity for government and military applications, and this deployment of XRAN comes at a time when the Department of Defense (DoD) is investing heavily in boosting U.S. leadership in 5G. In October 2020, DoD announced $600 million in awards for 5G experimentation and testing at five U.S. military sites, representing the largest-full scale 5G tests for military applications that also have applicability to the commercial world.

“5G policy is increasingly important for U.S. national security,” company spokesman said. “The transition to 5G is critical to continued U.S. leadership – both in business and in military applications. That’s why the ability of American companies to support the Pentagon’s efforts to strengthen the nation’s warfighting capabilities, as well as U.S. economic competitiveness is so essential.”

JMA’s private wireless network solutions for enterprises and government users are turnkey operable. Existing IT personnel can manage the network with just basic training, providing marines an opportunity to learn and evolve new core skillsets for post-service civilian careers.