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Devices for Private Cellular and CBRS: Complete Guide

Curious about CBRS devices? We discuss the categories of CBRS devices, how they work, and whether your existing devices are CBRS capable.

What Are CBRS devices?

CBRS devices operate within the 3.55-3.7 GHz private cellular spectrum in the United States and fall into two main categories:

  1. CBRS-capable devices that act as CPEs, IoT gateways, USB and Ethernet adapters, in-vehicle routers and edge appliances.
  2. CBRS devices such as smartphones, rugged mobile computers, laptops, tablets, Push-to-Talk handhelds and other smart devices.

What exactly is CBRS?

Citizens Broadband Radio Spectrum (CBRS) is a spectrum band in the 3550 to 3700 MHz range that private businesses can use to build services on, transfer data, and communicate.

Prior to 2016, the spectrum was used exclusively by the U.S.government to communicate with Navy ships along the coastline. In April of 2016, the FCC opened a large majority of their unused spectrum for private use, providing a new medium for enterprises to communicate.

To create a fair and balanced network, the FCC divided the CBRS band into three tiers: Incumbents, Priority Access Licence (PAL), and General Authorized Access (GAA).

While the FCC creates the rules and regulations for the CBRS, the OnGo Alliance helps drive technological developments. The alliance is a coalition of over 185 companies that work to improve and promote CBRS-based solutions.

CBRS creates new opportunities for businesses across the United States to build highly scalable and private mobile networks that don't rely on commercial cellular networks. Businesses looking to use CBRS can purchase access through CBRS auctions, secondary markets, or use the unlicensed GAA tier.

What Makes CBRS Devices Different?

CBRS access points that make up a private mobile network are also known as Citizens Broadband Radio Service Devices (CBSDs). These access points are designed to adhere to the regulations set forth by the FCC. Unlike a Wi-Fi network, CBRS devices cannot simply begin broadcasting; they must be given authorization first.

Authorization is handled by the Spectrum Access System (SAS), which uses sensors to enforce FCC rules, prevent interference, and manage spectrum allocation. CBSDs are designed to “check-in” with the SAS before broadcasting. Since the SAS cannot proactively reach out to devices, this component is key for CBSDs to operate.

To achieve this, CBSDs broadcast across the 3550 to 3700 MHz spectrum. The SAS can then catalog the device and authorize it to transmit if permitted.

With that said, not all mobile and IoT devices are designed to be used on the CBRS spectrum within a private mobile network. What makes these devices unique is their chipset. Manufacturers are now designing CBRS-capable devices that can communicate both on private and public mobile network infrastructure. This allows a single device to operate on the CBRS and switch to public cellular when that device leaves the CBRS network.

Many are also creating dedicated devices that can only be used on private cellular 4G LTE and/or 5G wireless networks.


There are two primary strategies businesses can use to manage their CBRS capable devices.

Bring Your Own Device - Users bring their own mobile devices into the private mobile network. Those devices (if compatible) are assigned authentication through a physical or embedded SIM (eSIM) card. The primary benefit to BYOD is that employees only need to keep track of one phone.

Choose Your Own Device - Users are given a list of authorized devices to choose from. These devices are fully managed by the corporate IT department and are prescreened to be compatible with IT infrastructure and the CBRS capable private LTE / 5G network. CYOD provides more granular control over each device and its network usage.

IoT gateways, in-vehicle routers, and robotics / machine connectivity of course rely on the CYOD model where enterprise IT and OT departments manage these devices.

No matter which methodology you choose, each CBRS capable device will need to authenticate and identify itself through the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) before it can be used on the network. CBRS devices can use a physical or virtual embedded SIM (eSIM) for authentication.

Physical SIMs are tiny cards that come pre-configured and can be inserted directly into the device. Devices with dual-SIM card capabilities can use two SIM cards to move between two or more cellular networks seamlessly. In the case of CBRS devices, this allows the user to move from the private mobile network to a commercial network without interruption.

eSIM works similarly but doesn’t require physical access to the phone. Rather than having dual-SIM capabilities, a device can scan a QR code and write the necessary information to the eSIM. Unlike physical cards, eSIMs are rewritable, offering more flexibility as scaling options for enterprises.

What to Look for When Purchasing CBRS Devices

If you’re looking to purchase your own CBRS devices, here are a few things to consider:

  • Are the devices CBRS certified and compliant with FCC regulations?
  • Is the hardware 5G ready?
  • Do the devices have dual-SIM technology?
  • Who will manage and support the devices?
  • What software will the devices need to support?
  • Will these devices need to work outside of the private mobile network?
If you’re unsure which management method or device is right for your CBRS network, Celona can help you navigate which choices are best for your business.

Types of CBRS Devices

There are numerous types of devices that can be used on a CBRS network. While phones, tablets and laptops are some of the most popular, Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) can also use CBRS spectrum for communication. CPE infrastructure such as hotspots, edge devices, or long-distance antennas are available to extend the coverage and range of private mobile networks.

The Internet of Things (IoT) can use sensors that operate over CBRS-based networks to serve a multitude of industries. These small sensors can communicate via their CBRS capable gateways and provide near-real-time metrics of industrial machines, autonomous vehicles, campus security systems, and other applications.

For a complete overview of compatible CBRS devices, check out our CBRS device list.

Managing CBRS devices

Much like IT infrastructure, CBRS devices require support, administration, and management. Celona’s unique 5G LAN solution provides Quality of Service (QoS), policy-based routing, and security segmentation to devices on a private mobile network - independent of device type or application mix. This approach simplifies and centralizes management while creating a more agile way for businesses to onboard new digital initiatives.

The Celona Solution

Celona partners with enterprise organizations to provide private LTE and 5G connectivity services for their critical operations as a seamless turnkey solution.

Plug-and-play CBRS access points from Celona can be quickly deployed throughout the campus, while proactive monitoring with a cloud-hosted dashboard ensures network SLAs, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently being met.

Celona uses cloud networking principles to make implementing its 5G LAN solution an out-of-box experience for access point installation, SIM provisioning, mobile core integration to existing enterprise networks and more. Onboarding for a Celona 5G LAN can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

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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