We’ll explain how CBRS and LTE relate, what Private LTE networks are, who’s using them and how they’ll use it, and why it matters to your organization.
So what is CBRS and what is LTE?
In the United States, Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is the name for the 150 Mhz-wide spectrum band from 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz that was made available for unlicensed use by wireless service providers and private organizations in January 2020. Organizations are now free to deploy LTE and 5G cellular wireless networks in this spectrum band in the U.S.
What exactly is LTE?
LTE, or Long Term Evolution, simply describes the standard used to transfer cellular data across networks worldwide. This is the same technology that your mobile phone uses to send text messages and answer calls. When you hear the terms 4G and 5G, they use similar standards to get that data across the network but offer improvements in speed, capacity, and reliability with each latest evolution. For example, 5G offers low <10ms latency, higher performance speeds, and improved reliability.
How private LTE over CBRS works
CBRS is a relatively new section of radio spectrum allocated by the FCC for private use in the United States. The 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz radio spectrum is now available for organizations to purchase licensing to use parts of that CBRS spectrum for enterprise use.
You can think of CBRS as the early days of the internet, where there was new technology infrastructure upon which businesses could use to build their own applications. CBRS is an opportunity to scale business communications and cellular network services in ways that weren’t possible before. CBRS also offers a way for businesses to apply the deterministic reliability of 4G and 5G technologies to existing and new applications.
CBRS utilizes a three-tiered licensing structure across three different groups. This tiered system helps separate the network from the interface and provides a way for both private and public access to the spectrum.
Incumbents - This tier is protected and dedicated for military use. The Navy uses this portion of the spectrum to communicate with ships and land-based radars along the coast. This tier is protected from all levels of interference.
PAL - Priority Access Licensing is obtained through FCC auctions where organizations bid to purchase licensing on a county by county basis in ten-year blocks. PAL licenses allow enterprises to strategically scale their network in a way that is free from interference from the GAA tier.
GAA - The General Access tier operates on a more open part of the spectrum that must share the spectrum from the tiers above. This tier could support home IoT smart light bulbs, CBRS gateways, and consumer smartphones.
Standards and technology for the CBRS spectrum are created by the OnGo Alliance, a non-profit group of different organizations that help improve the network and draft specifications for CBRS-based solutions and services. The Alliance also helps ensure that interoperability is available for all devices on the network, and works with other standards to help increase the availability of CBRS services.
Since CBRS operates on its own separate spectrum, it can be implemented in a way that’s directly deployed on top of existing IT infrastructure without interfering with the company’s existing Wi-Fi networks. In fact, that’s what we did here at Celona with our unique 5G LAN solution ready-made for enterprise environments.
LTE uses the same technology your phone uses to connect to big-name cellular networks, except it does this all on a dedicated network with no restrictions and no fees from mobile network operators. LTE over private spectrum options such as CBRS in the United States gives organizations complete control over where their network is located, who has access, and what kind of applications get priority over one another.
Advantages of using CBRS
CBRS offers a ‘clean’ spectrum for organizations to communicate over that protects users from varying levels of interference through private use. With Wi-Fi, virtually everywhere now, larger corporations are having trouble scaling and expanding their services in a reliable way through the noise of neighboring Wi-Fi networks. CBRS LTE benefits from a completely separate radio spectrum from other wireless solutions, allowing large networks to scale without worrying about interference from new wireless networks popping up in the area. Public LTE failover can also be put in place for some or all of the critical device infrastructure for increased resilience if an outage occurs.
Cellular wireless relies on centralized encryption by default using SIM authentication and offers a much safer medium for data transmission than Wi-Fi. In the cellular world, devices require SIM cards for identification and authentication to access portions of the network. Private LTE is structured to require new devices to be whitelisted to gain access.
Private LTE over CBRS offers improved capacity over public cellular services, meaning that each CBRS enabled access point can handle more devices at once. Oftentimes organizations experience growing pains as their wireless networks can’t keep up with the speed in which they’re trying to grow. LTE technology has already proven itself in the public sector to be able to handle high density of devices at once, and private LTE / 5G deployments will extend that capability to private indoor and outdoor enterprise environments.
Quality of Service
Mission-critical applications need a robust QoS policy to ensure other services don’t interfere with their operations. LTE and 5G cellular wireless offers more granular control over how resources are shared on the network. We see this in use today in the warehousing and logistics industry where automation infrastructure can be set to have a specific low latency SLA assigned to it, ensuring a specific degree of latency is always being met - on a per application and device group basis.
One of the biggest benefits of utilizing LTE and 5G cellular wireless is low impact to traffic flows when the devices is on the move between different access points in the network. Devices can move quickly throughout an area without experiencing an interruption in service. When a device moves between two access points, it performs a handoff. It’s likely you’ve never noticed your phone do this while on a call in your car: imagine that same technology being available within your private indoor and outdoor enterprise environments.
Private LTE networks are cost-competitive with existing wireless solutions. For instance, Celona’s integrated and enterprise-ready approach offer a similar TCO (although much higher ROI given the reliability, mobility and QoS benefits) compared to Wi-Fi. While cellular hardware might be more expensive on a per access point basis compared to existing solutions, less access point hardware is needed to cover a much larger area : targeting up to 25K sqft indoors and up to 1M sqft outdoors with a single access point.
Industries utilizing CBRS
Companies are already taking advantage of CBRS LTE technology to improve their reliability and reach. Let’s take a look at a few industries.
Most importantly, private mobile networks based on CBRS-based LTE can deliver deterministic communications services that healthcare staff can rely on. IoT-enabled inventory tracking, staff smartphones / tablets, EKG machines and others must be able to maintain a strong network connection no matter where the devices wind up. Private mobile networks allow these devices to move across campus without any loss or degradation in signal. This data can then be transmitted in near real-time back to dashboards or healthcare portals for instant insights.
The inherent privacy and security built directly into the LTE standard allow hospitals to easily segment their network to comply with standards such as HIPAA, without having to worry about shared passwords or bad actors on the guest network.
In the higher education market, private LTE has connected classrooms and campuses in new ways. LTE-enabled research facilities can operate on their own powerful network. Outdoor spaces enable students to connect to the internet via the campus Wi-Fi network, while campus IT and facilities teams can use the private mobile network on the CBRS spectrum for IoT-enabled applications like smart meters, lighting, and video security.
Having an assembly line cease production even for a few minutes can result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In operations where efficiency is vital, the deterministic reliability of cellular LTE and 5G wireless can help factory floors stay connected.
QoS configurations can ensure that factory floor robotics are operating at a specific low latency, and always have network resource priority over other services. SIM-based authentication can allow network administrators to easily segment and isolate critical infrastructure from other parts of the network.
The Celona Solution
Celona partners with enterprise organizations to provide private LTE and 5G services as a seamless turnkey solution. Celona’s unique 5G LAN solution utilizes cloud networking principles designed for enterprise environments and AI powered automation to make implementing private mobile networks an out-of-box experience. Onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.
Plug-and-play cellular access points can be quickly deployed throughout the campus, while proactive monitoring ensures network SLAs such as throughput and latency requirements are consistently being met.
If you’re building your network for the future, we can help. Check out our network planner to estimate the size of your CBRS powered private LTE network, or test drive the Celona 5G LAN Solution for yourself through our free trial.