Geoverse, a private cellular network operator, today announced it is the managed service partner for the Citizens Broadband Radio Network (CBRS) network being rolled out across Tucson, Arizona, by the city’s municipal government. The network will enable remote learning and multiple smart city applications in the first phase and new use cases and applications in follow-on phases. According to Geoverse, the city’s private network is one of the largest municipal cellular deployments rolled out so far in the United States.
The city has deployed the Geoverse GeoCore Evolved Packet Core (EPC) as the critical control element to manage the CBRS radio network infrastructure from JMA Wireless, the Spectrum Access Service (SAS) from Google, and the many user devices. Mobile devices and end points will be populated with a Geoverse subscriber identity module (SIM) card, enabling them to securely connect to the private network and utilize capabilities such as roaming if they travel off-net.
With the increasing requirement for remote learning, multiple school districts across Tucson faced an all-too-familiar problem: Many households lacked the resources to connect their school-age children. With limited resources and budgets, these school districts approached the city’s IT department to see how it could help address this digital divide.
Collin Boyce, the city government’s CIO, embraced the challenge and quickly developed a strategic plan that started with a school and city-county partnership. Local municipal assets such as city fiber and building rooftops and towers, combined with federal grant money, resulted in a viable plan to solve the student connectivity issue near-term, while also creating a network that could benefit the community elsewhere long-term.
A Wi-Fi approach was considered, but the required equipment, installation resources and related costs to connect the 31 neighborhoods, five school districts and almost 100,000 students proved problematic. Instead, the city evaluated LTE and CBRS, identified key advantages they offer, such as signal reach, performance, proven security and seamless mobility, and ultimately that became the foundation for the municipal solution.
“The resulting CBRS infrastructure footprint and related deployment resources required were significantly much more manageable and therefore more cost-effective, which was significant in understanding the tight schedule and limited resources we were managing against,” Boyce said.
The municipal network offers high-performance wireless connectivity with download speeds of 50 Mbps. In addition, the GeoCore Service platform allows for network slicing across the cellular network, resulting in multiple virtual networks, each of which can each be dedicated to specific functions to help manage city infrastructure domains better.
Uses include connecting the city’s network of traffic lights, monitoring and managing its critical water systems, serving city parks and recreational spaces with public Wi-Fi, and connecting first responders. The network also will be the platform the city uses to offer its staff low-cost, high-performance internet service.
“Once we became more familiar with all the capabilities of LTE and CBRS, it became increasingly clear that Geoverse was the right partner to lead and manage the delivery of this technology for our community network,” Boyce said,
Rod Nelson, the CEO of Geoverse, said the network represents a major deployment for its coverage area and for its support of use cases, underscoring the value of what such highly capable networks can do. “We’re pleased to partner with the city of Tucson on such a critical effort to keep their communities connected and their schools open. This is a model other cities are closely watching,” he said.
Geoverse is a licensed mobile operator that provides turnkey connectivity solutions for enterprises, property owners, and communities. The company’s private 5G/LTE cellular network offering, which is based on CBRS and licensed spectrum, interconnects with major mobile operators, delivering a secure, flexible solution enabling value-added applications and high-performance coverage for users and devices. Geoverse is a subsidiary of ATN International, a company with more than 30 years of experience building and operating cellular solutions for enterprises, carriers and consumers.
Geoverse, a private cellular network operator, has launched a national network-as-a-service (NaaS) platform, which enables enterprises, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), systems integrators and other partners to introduce the advanced functionality of private cellular networks. The company also offers a turnkey private LTE system that can be owned and operated by the enterprise, property owners, or municipalities.
“People are reading more and more about private cellular, and that is creating momentum in the marketplace. It’s moving more from just curiosity to adoption,” said Bob Gault, chief commercial officer at Geoverse. “So, we are capitalizing on the momentum to accelerate the marketplace and take advantage of the excitement around the solution.”
The NaaS is compatible with general access and priority access licenses in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and 600/700 licensed low band LTE spectrum owned by Geoverse, which has access to the licensed spectrum via another Geoverse line of business – Commnet Wireless.
Geoverse’s NaaS provides the enterprise with an intelligent services platform that securely enables roaming, neutral-host service, voice over LTE (VoLTE), integrated private branch exchange (PBX) calling features, licensed low-band spectrum support and analytics. NaaS includes full evolved packet core (EPC) functionality hosted in the cloud, which can be deployed quickly and at low cost for enterprises of all types or on-premise for low-latency applications. In short, it’s intended to help the enterprise do more with its cellular network.
NaaS is a standalone network component that can be bundled with other network infrastructure elements – either sourced from Geoverse or from a Geoverse partner. In January, Geoverse will enable a channel-led marketing model. The industry partners program will reach out to a variety of companies, including communications service providers that provide service to enterprises, legacy cellular carriers, tower companies, technology vendors, enterprise network resellers, system integrators, value-added resellers and consultants.
“As part of our NaaS offering, we have also announced a formal partner program to allow participating members to easily present a more compelling network offering to their customers,” Gault said. “Our partners give us capabilities and reach in the marketplace. That’s the way we’re going to grow and grow exponentially in fiscal year 2021 and beyond.” Some of Geoverse’s partners include JMA Wireless, Communication Technology Services, CommScope/Ruckus, Advanced Network Services and Nokia.
Geoverse would like to tap into partners’ relationships with local municipalities, which are getting Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to close the digital divide.
“We’re firing up private cellular services in local municipalities to provide video security and distance-based learning in the education space and leveraging the Tier 2 service providers and our many partners to do that,” Gault said.
Geoverse is radio-agnostic; therefore, its NaaS integrates with all leading radio network vendors, allowing organizations that may already have their own radio access networks (RANs) or that have partnered with a preferred VAR or systems integrator to implement a private cellular network. Each of the NaaS-enabled user devices uses a Geoverse subscriber identification module (SIM) card to take advantage of private cellular network functionality, such as user roaming onto other cellular networks.
The foundation of the Geoverse’s NaaS is the GeoCore platform, which provides a clear path to 5G wireless communications. GeoCore securely interconnects private enterprise networks with major public cellular carriers, facilitated by existing roaming agreements that Geoverse has with more than 90 service providers across the United States and internationally.
Geoverse has completed its first successful standalone 5G data session using its GeoCore intelligent service platform. Following this test, Geoverse is preparing to rollout standalone 5G across its national GeoCore footprint during the first half of 2021 as a foundation for delivering 5G to the enterprise.
“Private cellular networks are starting to see real growth, and that trajectory will only accelerate as enterprises look to take advantage of new technologies like CBRS and business models to achieve high-performance mobility services in a mobile first world,” said Geoverse CEO Rod Nelson. “With our NaaS offering, Geoverse brings an integrated solution to market, providing our partners a highly effective way to easily do more with their own products and ultimately help their customers do more with their networks.”
The potential vertical industries for private cellular networks, according to market researcher Business Industry Reports, include manufacturing, transportation, utilities, mining, oil and gas, healthcare, education, retail and hospitality, and government and municipalities. Early NaaS deployments include both fixed wireless service, such as the service used by so many school districts today for remote learning, and mobile-based wireless service for the enterprise.
Nokia, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies are some of the OEMs deploying dedicated private networks for enterprises, according to market research database Kenneth Research. “For instance, Nokia offers MulteFire and CBRS small cells that allow enterprises to deploy their own private LTE networks,” information from Kenneth Research reads. “The company provides a virtual mobile edge computing/private LTE solution to enterprises that enable them with edge cloud low-latency applications that include analytics, push-to-talk and push-to-video, IoT management and video orchestration.”
CommScope Partnerships Help It Enter Enterprise Market
CommScope and Cradlepoint have partnered to deliver turnkey private LTE deployments designed for mission-critical fixed and mobile use. The end-to-end solution provides enterprise-grade security for indoor and outdoor applications, using CommScope’s Ruckus CBRS networks and Cradlepoint’s cloud managed endpoints.
In another partnership, CommScope and Inseego plan to offer a CBRS solutions for mission-critical fixed and mobile use for indoor and outdoor applications.
Verizon to Deploy NaaS in Walgreens Stores
NaaS has caught the interest of the major carriers. Verizon Business will deploy it to deliver an enhanced wireless services to customers at more than 9,000 Walgreens and Duane Reade retail locations across the United States. The NaaS will carry the breadth of Verizon’s assets including LTE, 5G and Verizon Media, which will enable it to continually update its customized technology and business process offering.
Tami Erwin, Verizon Business CEO, said, “Working closely with Walgreens to understand their focus areas, we’ve tailored an offering that will meet their technology needs of today, and quickly scale to offer a rolling deployment of 5G in Walgreens locations, next-gen in-store experiences for customers and employees, and future-proofed backend operations to enhance efficiencies.” Verizon Business has also announced its intention to deploy on-site LTE private networks for enterprise customers.
Earlier in December, Verizon Business launched On Site LTE, which provides enterprises with a private, secure and dedicated on-premises wireless network platform on which to run critical business applications and operations. According to Verizon, On Site LTE can serve as a platform to accelerate digital transformation initiatives — such as predictive maintenance, robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and mobile edge compute (MEC) — while improving the overall operational output of their businesses.
Ever since the carriers pulled back on deploying additional DAS networks, the in-building wireless industry has been trying to break into the market for enterprises that occupy between 100,000 square feet and 500,000 square feet of space, known as the “middleprise.”
Much progress has been made. Measures have been undertaken to make these systems less expensive, less intrusive and quicker to deploy. Yet the growth expected in in-building wireless (IBW) systems has remained elusive, perhaps until now.
Yet the growth expected in IBW has remained elusive, perhaps until now.
The Citizens Broadband Radio Service at 3.5 GHz could prove to be a great enabler of private LTE systems, which give enterprises something they crave: control. Parallel to the evolution of DAS, quantum leaps have occurred in the area of evolved packet cores, the critical control element of the mobile network that enables the user’s connectivity. Instead of depending on the carriers’ cores, today an enterprise can have a dedicated core on the premises or use one in the cloud providing much of the same functionality as the traditional carriers’ core, but for a fraction of the cost and operational complexity.
I have wondered whether a company could provide service to enough in-building venues to become known as a niche wireless carrier. Is Boingo Wireless a carrier? It is, if you count its Wi-Fi subscribers. Otherwise, leasing indoor wireless infrastructure to an enterprise just makes a firm similar to a tower company.
Then I learned about Geoverse, which is owned by ATNI, a company that owns and operates mobile, fixed and cable television (CATV) providers in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. As a result of this relationship, Geoverse can leverage ATNI’s existing roaming agreements with licensed major carriers for its private LTE solutions. In addition, Geoverse’s blockchain transaction platform, known as GeoTrade, presents an opportunity for monetizing the roaming agreements between the public carrier networks and the in-building private LTE network. Geoverse has a relationship with Ruckus Networks and, eventually, will add every major indoor OEM.
Another company involved in monetizing the CBRS spectrum, Syniverse, has teamed with Ruckus Networks and Federated Wireless to develop private, high-speed and secure wireless networks. Syniverse provides the LTE core network, Ruckus Networks provides the LTE access points for the radio network, and Federated Wireless monitors and manages the spectrum.
The key to monetizing these private networks is a blockchain ledger-based billing and settlement system that allows operators manage the logging, clearing and settlement process for the commercial exchanges between parties.
The final piece of the puzzle is the availability of spectrum in the CBRS band, which uses general access licenses to quickly get frequencies into the hands of the enterprises at no cost. If you take access to frequencies, add control over the evolved packet core and the ability to monetize the system, you may just be looking at the future of enterprise in-building wireless.
I am no one to forecast how companies will attack the marketplace, but I have noticed a couple of interesting personnel changes. ExteNet, which has 2,000 CBRS-ready systems in place and can provide its own core, hired Jim Hyde, a man with a rich history on the carrier side (Western Wireless, T-Mobile UK, Ntelos). And then there is Stephen Bye, with more than 27 years of experience with wireless, cable and wireline service providers, who left C Spire to join another CBRS player, Connectivity Wireless Solutions.
Will ExteNet, Connectivity Wireless, Geoverse or Syniverse or some other company become a niche wireless carrier catering to the areas inside of buildings, while the major carriers cover the space outdoors? The market will decide, but the ingredients are there.
The Citizens Broadband Radio Service at 3.5 GHz is ushering in a new approach to in-building connectivity, allowing venues, enterprises and building owners to control their wireless service through dedicated private LTE systems. One company, Geoverse, is taking it one step further serving as an “inside-out” mobile operator.
Geoverse is owned by ATNI, a public company that has been owning and operating mobile, fixed, and CATV providers for over 30 years in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. As a result of this relationship, Geoverse can leverage all the existing roaming agreements ATNI has established with major carriers for their Private LTE solutions. In addition, Geoverse’s patented platform known as GeoTrade presents a real opportunity for monetizing the roaming agreements between the public carrier networks and the in-building Private LTE network. The integrated roaming and monetization capabilities are key differentiators when compared to other in-building solutions.
“When I heard that enterprises were going to be able to build their own private LTE systems, that’s when I realized we were really on to something,” Carl Gunell, Geoverse co-founder and SVP of Marketing and Business Development, told AGL eDigest. “We thought there might be 10,000 or more private LTE systems in the United States some day and they will need a commercial relationship between the network and the carrier.”
Cellular was built for outdoor use, but 80 percent of the time wireless calls are initiated indoors. Cell towers, however, do not penetrate the walls and windows of office buildings very well. DAS deployments in buildings have only proved to be cost effective in the largest venues and buildings. Many companies have tried different methods to make in-building wireless less expensive and to speed up the process of securing a signal source from the carriers.
“We are moving away from the traditional DAS model that required a lot of carrier coordination,” Gunell said. “Now with CBRS being commercialized, we put in less costly infrastructure that will be in the control of the building owner or enterprise without sacrificing any capability in terms of functionality such as roaming.”
Ericsson’s Radio Dot System provides in-building coverage and capacity for Geoverse’s enterprise private LTE offering. Geoverse and RF Connect have partnered to streamline the design, network engineering, and deployment of some early projects. However, Geoverse has an open solution architecture and will also use other vendors, VAR’s and integrators as the needs demand. Additionally, Geoverse has its own in-house LTE evolved packet core called GeoCore. GeoCore is the network element that enables the seamless roaming between the Private LTE networks and Public Carrier Networks.
“We look at CBRS, not as a new technology, but as a new paradigm. What is really rule-breaking about the service is it gives the control over the network to the enterprise,” Gunell said. “With CBRS, cellular communications is no longer the private domain of the major mobile operators. If a building wants better connectivity, it is on their budget not the carriers’ budgets. It’s on their timeline not the carriers’ timelines. The enterprise doesn’t have to beg for a signal source.”
Geoverse’s full-building solution when used alongside IoT sensors enables a ‘smart building’ can help a building owner or enterprise identify inefficient systems and processes, monitoring temperature, lighting, room use and desk use.
“The landlord owns all the data concerning how many people are using each small cell in the building and at what times they occupy those spaces. They have visibility into network operations and performance,” Gunell said.
They can also use the same CBRS network as the common platform for all kinds of connectivity, providing hubs and gateways to connect legacy devices.
When Geoverse and the enterprise build a Private LTE network inside of the building, that network can offer additional coverage and capacity for the carriers. Carriers want to be assured of call quality and the GeoTrade platform assures this metric via Service Level Agreements.
“We can guarantee AT&T that we have five-nines capability in the building, leading to satisfied users,” Gunell said. “Because the GeoCore EPC can be deployed inside the Building, you get a 5G-like experience with a 4G LTE Advanced Network, with low latency and high reliability.”