Curious about CBRS and CPE devices? We explain how CPE devices connect to a CBRS network, what some of the CPE device options are for CBRS networks, and how to choose the best equipment for your requirements.
What is a CBRS CPE?
A CPE (Customer Premises Equipment) device refers to any piece of user equipment that is used to access a provider's services. In a CBRS-powered Private Mobile Network, a CPE device serves as a gateway router.
What is the CBRS?
In short, the Citizens Broadband Radio Spectrum is a 150 MHz block of spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission has designated for private use. CBRS spectrum is separated into three tiers of users, where 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 business use and acquired through CBRS auctions.
- General Availability Access: GAA is the lowest tier on the CBRS, and must accept interference from both tiers. Devices in this range can include mobile phones, small cell towers, and IoT devices.
What does the CPE do?
The Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) provides network access for devices and can be anything from an indoor wall mounted unit, to a roof mounted antenna. Historically CPEs would only provide Wi-Fi access, now with the advent of CBRS we are seeing more CPEs that can operate on the 3.5 GHz/B48 CBRS spectrum range. Just like wireless access points, multiple CPEs are often needed to provide full mobile coverage in an area.
CBRS CPEs are specifically designed to operate on the CBRS spectrum and adhere to the FCC guidelines that allow all tiers to communicate efficiently. The SAS is a cloud-based spectrum coordinator that manages devices operating within the CBRS. The SAS protects other tiers from interference by controlling which CBSDs are allowed to broadcast, and how they broadcast.
The SAS dynamically determines spectrum availability and sends a power assignment to the CPE. CPEs are specifically designed to utilize the CBRS radio spectrum and support the maximum transmit power granted by the FCC.
What is an example of a CPE?
CPEs can describe a wide range of service provider devices that are located at the site of the customer. This can include CBSDs as well as standard 802.11 Wi-Fi devices. Not all CPEs can act as CBSDs, so it’s important to make sure that you choose CBRS capable CPEs upon deployment. CBRS CPEs primarily come in two variations, indoor and outdoor. Indoor CPEs are designed to provide high availability in closed spaces installed easily via a ceiling or wall mount. CPEs can be tailored to serve specific environments and come in a variety of sizes such as macrocell, small cell, or femtocell.
These different cell types allow network operators to build Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) that provide network access in challenging environments such as college campuses, and stadiums, and large venue. Outdoor CPEs are often more expensive, but use weatherproofing and ruggedized reinforcements to withstand all four seasons. Outdoor CPEs can look similar to indoor wall units or be mounted on an antenna to provide wider coverage over longer distances.
Many CPEs support 4G/LTE speeds, with newer models now supporting 5G capabilities, for instance the Inseego FG2000 indoor CPE.
CPE Use Cases
CPE devices have numerous uses that can help companies and communities extend their coverage and bring mobile access to new locations. Let’s explore a few of the most common uses of CPE devices.
Closing The Digital Divide
With the right CPE devices, K12 schools can supply wireless broadband access to students as they access remote learning initiatives from their homes. Private mobile networks can provide internet access to students who don’t have it, allowing them to access educational and school resources in a secure and controlled manner. Private mobile services have proved to be invaluable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, offering students a simple yet effective alternative to in-person classes.
The network is built using a series of access points strategically placed on towers and rooftops, designed to provide coverage to your target area. Customers choose their own CPE devices for their students and staff. Smartphones, laptops, and tablets can all access the private mobile network.
Celona works directly with managed services providers and the IT leaders at K-12 school districts to plan and implement security and performance policies. This is done through Celona’s unique MicroSlicing technology, allowing for application and device group specific rules for network segmentation, secure access and SLA-based (e.g. throughput, latency) QoS enforcement. This infrastructure creates an ecosystem of higher learning that serves the entire community, regardless of what services a student may or may not have at home.
Entire cities can use a CBRS powered Celona private mobile network to control and monitor critical public infrastructure, digitize public safety projects, rollout new IoT initiatives and more. Different CPE devices will be required depending on the coverage area, the number of devices supported, and the type of service offered.
For example, large cities looking to deploy private 4G / 5G cellular can use small cells mounted on street lamps to broadcast service in more densely populated areas, while roof-mounted antennas transmit across the mid-band for blanket coverage. Celona works directly with city officials to conduct site surveys, choose the right equipment, and build network policies.
With city-wide coverage, districts can manage and improve infrastructure like never before. IoT sensors can be used to track public transportation in real-time, allowing citizens to know where their ride is, and if it will be running late. Smart parking meters and lots can broadcast their availability across the network, helping others find the closest parking spots with the least resistance.
On the backend, city vehicles such as garbage trucks and maintenance trucks can be tracked in real-time, allowing managers to better understand their capacity and availability throughout the day. In Chicago, city leaders attached smart sensors to dumpers throughout the city to track waste build-up. When paired with predictive analytics, the city was 20 percent more efficient at removing their waste and controlling their rodent population.
Whether it’s a rural construction operation or an outdoor venue, the right CPE devices can bring high-speed connectivity to the job site. Outdoor CPE devices can be mounted on mobile tripods, allowing companies to quickly deploy their mobile network wherever that job may be.
For construction companies, this allows on-site workers to access company resources without requiring a VPN or contract with a commercial mobile operator. Project managers can seamlessly share updates back to corporate headquarters and even set up security cameras to monitor the most remote locations.
Outdoor concerts and other public events can use the same CPE technology to improve cellular quality for guests. Event planners can use neutral host services to allow guest devices to securely “pass-through” your network to reach their cell provider. With social distancing in place, having a live stream available to your customers can help events scale beyond physical capacity limits. The right CPE devices can enable ample upload and download speed to support high-quality live streaming of these events.
How do I configure a CPE?
Configuring a CPE is a straightforward process that can be performed through a simple web interface. Celona makes this process even easier with simple step-by-step instructions and pre-activated SIM cards for each device. Setting up your CPE will require you to insert your SIM card into the device and power it on. Once powered on you’ll need to connect the device to your laptop through the LAN port. This allows you to directly interface with the CPE for configuration.
Each device is different, but all CPEs will have a set admin page that can be accessed via IP address through a web browser. Check your documentation for the correct IP address and default login credentials. You’ll want to make sure your laptop is on the same subnet as the device so you can make a connection. Many CPE device options (e.g. Inseego) allows for cloud-management of many CPE devices at once, in addition to local configuration, in order to simplify deployments at large scale.
The next steps will vary depending on your device. Many CPEs only need a few changes made to their default settings to connect and start broadcasting.
What to look for in a CBRS CPE
Before buying equipment for your private mobile network you’ll want to check the specifications and design type of your CPE. Here are a few things to consider when buying a CPE for your network:
- Is the CPE FCC certified for CBRS use?
- Is the unit for indoor or outdoor use?
- What LAN and WAN interfaces does the device support?
- Can the device support 5G in the future?
- What data rates can the device support?
- Does the CPE support the maximum power grant allowed by the FCC?
Every network faces its own set of unique standards and challenges. If you’re thinking of building a private mobile network, Celona can make sure you’re using the right CPE for the job.
The Celona Solution
Celona partners with K-12 schools, smart cities and enterprise organizations to provide private 4G and 5G cellular connectivity across their facilities and outdoor areas as a seamless turnkey solution.
Celona utilizes its unique 5G LAN solution and cloud-based artificial intelligence to make implementing private mobile networks an out-of-the-box experience. Onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.
Plug-and-play CPE devices can be quickly deployed throughout these locations to take advantage of a Celona network, while proactive monitoring ensures network SLAs such as throughput and latency requirements are consistently being met for critical use cases.
If you’re building the network for the future, Celona can help. Check out our network planner to see what your Celona network would look like, or test-drive a Celona 5G LAN for yourself through our free trial option.