Fixed wireless broadband continues to gain traction with the news today that Georgia-based wireless internet service provider (WISP) Paladin Wireless will deploy fixed service using LTE technology in the CBRS band. Paladin is targeting a December turn-up for the network using an experimental license, said an executive for ExteNet, manufacturer of the CBRS LTE fixed wireless broadband equipment that Paladin will be using to support the CBRS deployment under an experimental license.
Fixed wireless, in general, has gained a lot of support in the last year or so, with major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon eying the technology that WISPs have deployed for years to economically serve remote areas. CBRS LTE fixed wireless could build further momentum by reducing equipment and spectrum costs – although those economics will depend, in part, on decisions that the Federal Communications Commission will be making in coming months.
Because LTE has been so widely deployed as a mobile technology, fixed wireless equipment based on LTE should be considerably less costly than fixed wireless equipment using other technologies. But uncertainties surround the CBRS spectrum band.
CBRS LTE Fixed Wireless
Paladin Wireless already supports broadband wireless in the 3.65 lightly licensed spectrum band and the equipment supporting that service will be upgraded to support CBRS, explained ExteNet Systems Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives Jason Osborne in an interview with Telecompetitor.
Moving forward, FCC plans call for the 3.65 GHz band to be incorporated into the CBRS band to create a broader swath of spectrum between 3550-3700 MHz – a portion of which will be shared with incumbent government users. The broader spectrum band can support faster broadband and greater capacity in comparison with the 3.65 GHz band alone, Osborne said.
Current plans for the CBRS band call for small license areas based on census tracts that WISPs hoped they would be able to afford. But those plans are in question, now that the FCC is considering expanding the size of license areas and lengthening the terms of licenses – moves that would make the spectrum more attractive to the nation’s largest mobile operators but less attractive and affordable for the WISPs.
The experimental CBRS license under which Paladin will operate is “connected to an undisclosed SAS (spectrum access service),” said Osborne. SAS providers include the likes of Google and Federated Wireless, who will provide the technology that will keep track of where CBRS spectrum is available for use by network operators.
Osborne declined to comment about the potential impact of CBRS rule changes under consideration by the FCC. He added, though, that he expects to see “business as usual” for network operators that have deployed broadband wireless in the 3.65 GHz band “for a long time.”
Wireless Roaming Possibilities
In a press release, ExteNet describes the equipment that Paladin Wireless will use as a “turnkey small cell and distributed evolved packet core solution.” Interestingly that equipment can be deployed in a manner that can support mobile roaming services for Tier 1 providers, potentially generating additional revenue for the network operator deploying the equipment. According to Osborne, the Paladin Wireless deployment will support that capability.
He added, though, that “we’re waiting for the Tier 1 [operators] to drop CBRS capability into their handsets.”
The ExteNet news illustrates that FCC decisions about the CBRS band not only will impact the viability of rural broadband wireless but also could impact the rural roaming landscape.
And just yesterday, Microsoft provided some additional details about its plan to use broadband wireless as a key element of a plan to make broadband available nationwide within five years.