The first wave of coastal sensor networks that detect the presence of naval radar systems which share the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band at 3.5 GHz have received approval from the Federal Communications Commission, and Federated Wireless has now officially announced the nationwide availability of its Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) network.
“This is something we’ve been working on for the last two years, and it is really going to be the key aspect to fully unleashing the potential of the 150 megahertz of spectrum,” said Kurt Shaubach, CTO of Federated Wireless.
Federated, CommScope and Google all recently received FCC approval for their ESCs. CommScope and Google’s ESC is a collaborative effort between the two companies, with both companies operating their own Spectrum Access Systems.
Federated has long been one of the central backers of CBRS, and it developed both an ESC system and a Spectrum Access System — the two systems which are necessary to support the three tiers of CBRS spectrum sharing — along the way. While the SAS assigns spectrum access to authorized devices, the ESC must detect the presence of incumbent systems; since those include moving radar systems on naval ships, the ESC was designed as a network of sensors along the coast that would pick up the presence of such systems and ensure that the SAS could appropriately move lower-priority CBRS users so that there would not be an impact on radar operations. This is particularly important because many large U.S. cities — where network operators would likely be most interested in being able to leverage CBRS spectrum — are on the coasts, and customer continuity of experience has to be able to be maintained even in major ports with naval operations, such as Norfolk, Virginia and San Diego, California.
Schaubach said that Federated has been working with the Department of Defense for nearly six years, from the very early days of Federated’s existence. The company developed some initial hardware platforms for concept validation, field deployment and testing, and the network that will support commercial CBRS use is the third iteration of that product platform, he said. Federated says that its network is telco-grade in that it achieves 5-9s of reliability or better — “closer to 6-9s in terms of real customer availability, the continuous ability for us to manage that spectrum,” Shaubach said.
Within the dynamic protection areas along the coasts, he said, “it is really important that you have a sufficient number of sensors to fully monitor each of these DPAs.” He said that Federated has a “couple hundred” sensors in place along the entire U.S. coast, as well as a network operations center ready to support CBRS deployments.
As with a service provider network, Shaubach said, Federated has gained valuable real-world insights from the past two years of deployment and in-field testing of its ESC. It has endured two hurricanes, wildfires and more mundane weather conditions, as well as siting challenges because the sensors must have coastal locations while still having access to power and an internet connection. Because of the worst-case consequences if an ESC were to fail or be unavailable — the SAS must revert to assigning the 150 MHz of CBRS spectrum as if a full 100 megahertz of the spectrum was occupied by DoD radar — extremely high reliability and redundancy is necessary, Schaubach said.
Although the Priority Access License tier of CBRS is not expected to be available until an auction can be held — likely in 2020 — the certification of the ESCs mean that commercial CBRS deployments are a step closer to moving forward, with users taking advantage of the unlicensed General Authorized Access level. That can’t happen, however, until the last piece — the certification of the Spectrum Access Systems — is complete. According to the most recent timeline from the CBRS Alliance, initial commercial deployments of CBRS are expected in the third quarter of this year.
“We’re thrilled to see all of this come together at the same time. That will, I think, really bring much more significance to our initial customer deployment activities, because the whole network is available for us,” Shaubach said.
Federated said that it has more than 40 device manufacturers and edge partners working with it to support CBRS ecosystem development, and that its customer base includes more than 25 companies across a range of industries.
“We are truly ready. We are ready beyond just having a technology that has been FCC authorized — we’ve done all the other work necessary to make sure that CBRS is ready for commercial launch,” he added.
The CBRS Alliance is hosting a workshop on deploying OnGo (LTE in CBRS spectrum) next week at the Connectivity Expo.
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