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5G, Private Spectrum and CBRS

Curious about private cellular spectrum options (CBRS in the US) for 5G? We’ll explain how CBRS and 5G relate and why they matter to your organization.

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So What Is CBRS and What Is 5G?

Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) frequency band in the United States enables organizations to use the 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz radio spectrum to build wireless networks based on 4G LTE and 5G cellular technologies. 5G (5th generation technology standard for cellular networks) has been designed to offer increased capacity, lower latency and better overall performance.

What Is CBRS and How Does it Work?

The CBRS spectrum band is a 150 MHz portion of radio spectrum made available by the FCC for private use in the United States. Private entities can access the CBRS band to build enterprise infrastructure services without expensive licensing fees. This opens up the possibility for enterprises to utilize advanced applications including autonomous vehicles, IoT sensors, and ultra-low latency applications without relying on commercial mobile carriers.

The CBRS band is divided into three different tiers. These tiers help prevent interference and provide a classification for CBRS devices and communication. Each tier must accept interference from the one above it.

  • Incumbents: Reserved for governmental agencies, navy ships, and fixed satellite stations. Nothing is allowed to interfere.
  • Priority Access License: Licenses are for commercial businesses and acquired through CBRS auctions.
  • General Availability Access: GAA is the lowest tier on the CBRS, and must navigate interference from both tiers. Devices in this range can include mobile phones, small cell towers, and IoT devices.

PAL licensing can be obtained through FCC auctions or second-hand marketplaces. Enterprises can use the GAA tier for their mobile deployment without having to purchase the priority access license.

Unlike Wi-Fi, cellular wireless access points on the CBRS band (also known as CBSDs) must receive permission prior to broadcasting. This measure was put into place by the FCC to help avoid interference, specifically to protect naval vessels that use the spectrum along the coastline. The mechanism that protects traffic on the network is called the Spectrum Access System (SAS). Any mobile device that wishes to broadcast must first check in with the SAS prior to transmitting.

The SAS is a cloud-based spectrum coordinator that uses environmental sensors to prevent interference, set power assignments, and determine spectrum availability. Since the SAS cannot proactively reach out to cellular access points, they must be specifically designed and approved by the FCC to operate on the spectrum.

Technologies and services that leverage the CBRS band (and other mid-band spectrum worldwide) have an ally in the industry group known as the OnGo Alliance, which is composed of more than 100 technology and communication companies. The alliance drives technological development for CBRS-powered networks and works to promote the CBRS spectrum utilization across different industries and verticals.

How Does 5G Relate to CBRS?

The CBRS band allows businesses to build their own private mobile networks that can come in various configurations and performance characteristics. 5G is at the cutting edge of those speeds, allowing for ultra-low latency, increased capacity and speeds nearly four times faster than 4G.

Currently, many mobile networks use 4G/LTE technology as 5G availability for public mobile networks is still being rolled out throughout the country. Even with publicly available 5G by mobile network operators in its early stages, CBRS spectrum band lays the groundwork for businesses to build their own private mobile networks that can take advantage of 5G capabilities if it’s not already available in the area.

While 5G is a direct upgrade from 4G in nearly every way, offering improved speeds, coverage, capacity and reliability… in order to take full advantage of 5G technology, networks and the devices that connect to these networks will need to be updated with compatible chipsets.

5G CBRS networks will bring improved performance to allow companies to stream high-quality video footage, communicate and control devices at low latency, and track moving appliances with enhanced accuracy. This will significantly benefit companies that rely on machine to machine communications, remote vehicle control and other monitoring systems that rely on real-time response from the cellular wireless network.

Private 5G over CBRS spectrum in the United States gives businesses more control and privacy over their data than with commercial networks. While commercial mobile networks are convenient, their fees are subject to change without warning, and data security cannot be guaranteed. Lack of cost effective access to public mobile networks makes it challenging to build and scale services for the long term.

When it comes to Wi-Fi, 5G cellular is simply a better option for critical enterprise applications that require long range coverage and low latency performance. Wi-Fi 6 comes close to matching 5G speeds but still suffers from external interference sources when operating within the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. While Wi-Fi is great for wireless communication for all bring your own device initiatives / approaches, enterprise organizations also need an additional 5G cellular wireless connectivity that can stay interference-free and that offer predictable service levels for latency - throughput - packet error rate, next to Quality of Service (QoS) controls for demanding applications.

CBRS 5G Capabilities

5G will usher in significant improvements in a few key areas:

  • Nearly four times faster than 4G
  • Support for high density of devices (think IoT sensors)
  • Under 20ms round-trip latency
  • Reduced network energy consumption

A major difference between public and private 5G is the control you have over your traffic. Businesses have little control over how their cellular data is segmented, prioritized, and controlled on commercial mobile carrier networks. In a private mobile network, companies have the opportunity to “slice” their airtime resources between different device groups and application types, and control which of these slices receive more resources. They ultimately have the control over which devices to onboard to their private LTE / 5G wireless network, and which applications to prioritize at which service level.

Celona’s unique and patent pending MicroSlicing technology gives enterprises granular control over their data, allowing them to create custom service levels for applications, services, and contextual device groups. This helps ensure mission-critical applications are always meeting specific latency and throughput requirements - and can be directly integrated within the enterprise network access and QoS policies that are already in place.

Who Needs CBRS 5G?

Businesses with strict uptime requirements and multi-site facilities can all benefit greatly from CBRS-based 5G services.


Factories across all industries rely on machine to machine communication to automate operations, track products, and enable predictive monitoring of their production line. By leveraging 5G connectivity, factories can improve uptime and speed of their operations while enabling new digital initiatives such as remote assist with wearables, automated mobile robotics, computer vision, among others.


Hospitals use low-latency connectivity to monitor critical healthcare applications, such as bedside technology, nurse / doctor unified communication, and computer on wheels. Healthcare staff can trust that their private cellular connectivity will remain interference-free when operating next to guest Wi-Fi services and neighboring Wi-Fi networks in urban areas.

Higher Education

College campuses across the country are leveraging 5G CBRS to improve physical safety services, conduct proactive maintenance on facilities technology outdoors and securely communicate with all members of their staff during events. Private mobile networks can provide campus-wide outdoor 5G fixed wireless backbone with less infrastructure and higher reliability compared to other alternatives.

The Celona Solution

Celona partners with enterprise organizations to provide CBRS 5G services as a seamless turnkey 5G LAN solution.

Celona utilizes cloud networking principles to make implementing private mobile networks an out-of-box experience. Onboarding for a Celona 5G LAN can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

Plug-and-play cellular access points from Celona can be quickly deployed throughout the campus, while proactive monitoring within a Celona network ensures network SLAs, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently being met for critical applications.

If you’re building your network for the future, Celona can help. Check out our network planner to estimate the size of your private mobile network, or test-drive the Celona 5G LAN solution after applying for a free trial.

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