As the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) gets closer to becoming ready for the general public’s consumption, more players within the commercial real estate industry have shared their thoughts on its impact. CBRS is part of the 150 MHz spectrum in the 3.5 GHz range that the Department of Defense (DOD) has utilized mostly for ship-borne radar. Now that this band is becoming available for commercial use, commercial real estate (CRE) owners will have the opportunity to install their own private LTE networks. With a private network, building owners can equip their properties with Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as security cameras, remote thermostats, locks, lighting, and more without relying on mobile carriers. This will lower costs and provide a more reliable network than Wi-Fi.
Communication Technology Services (CTS) provides telecommunications services in today’s network environment and specializes in turnkey mobility design and deployment services, in-building Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), public safety, small cell, fiber-based LAN solutions, voice and data cabling and more. CTS is also one of the Commercial Real Estate industry players with thoughts on CBRS’ emergence and a member of the CBRS Alliance, a group of more than 120 companies dedicated to promoting LTE-based technology branded as “OnGo” as well as use cases and business opportunities.
For the last couple of years, the narrative was CBRS was “coming.” Well, now it is here and as an industry CRE needs to be ready for it—from understanding how CBRS works, why it will benefit building owners, pricing and more. Dr. Juanyu Bu, CTS Vice President of Mobility Strategy, shared some of his thoughts with Connected Real Estate Magazine, providing insights into how CBRS is an ideal fit for CRE owners, how CBRS compares to other wireless network solutions, and how cost effective CBRS will be. Dr. Bu also pointed out that since this is a very new technology, use cases are still being developed and there are limitations and challenges in deploying the CBRS private networks while license auctions are being planned by FCC in the coming year and technology standards being developed among CBRS Alliance members.
WHAT DEPLOYING CBRS WILL ENTAIL
“With (private networks), we are trying to get to a fiber deep infrastructure,” Dr. Bu said. “CBRS private networks enable a lot of different systems to be deployed inside of buildings or in a peripheral part of customers’ facilities. From our perspective, there could be small cells or typical fiber-based DAS for deploying in-building cellular on CBRS private networks. If you want to add other services onto these networks, such as security cameras, IoT devices, Building Management System (BMS), Point-of-Sales (POS), etc., you will probably need to have a fiber-based infrastructure with some category cable deployments to support the additional services.”
BENEFITS OF CBRS OVER TRADITIONAL SOLUTIONS
According to Dr. Bu, part of the headache CRE owners face in terms of private networks is having to pay carriers for data—as well as their signal sources. When a CRE owner has a CBRS private network, their network exists in a controlled environment where connections are reliable and secure. The dependence on carriers for design approval and to provide signal sources will gradually fade away. The building owner will be able to design the private network to their specific preference, providing tenants more value.
“Building owners will be able to offer tenants broadband services in their units and provide these services as an appealing add-on at the beginning of the lease, or whenever they sign up,” Dr. Bu said. “Once you have a private network, there are other ways to monetize it to provide additional services for your tenants or users.”
Dr. Bu also pointed out how a CBRS private network would be more reliable and secure than traditional Wi-Fi networks when encountering interference.
“As an example, if the general public activated a Wi-Fi hotspot from their mobile device inside a building, there is the potential for the general public to bring interference with them and incapacitate the in-building Wi-Fi network, right?” Dr. Bu said. “Wi-Fi is essentially a timeshared detect-before-you-transmit system, which is not ideal for anyone—especially the enterprise IT folks. The controlled LTE or carrier type of network for a private enterprise would be appealing to CRE owners because they have total control of the data coming in and out of the network.
“The private network would also have full security authentication to allow the network to take on additional subscribers or others who wanted to sign on to the network.”
Additionally, private network users could have the capability of keeping their data on site and not have to correspond with external sources if that was their preference. “Obviously they want to connect with the outside world, but if they wanted to, they could have their private network without even communicating to the outside,” Dr. Bu said.
THE PROMISE OF CBRS VERSUS REALITY
There have been a number of use cases where CBRS has been used for 2-way radio, voice over private LTE, building management systems (BMS) for devices like lighting control, HVAC, elevators, etc. However, there have not been many tests for CBRS as it pertains to cellular networks. With that in mind, there is the question of how CRE owners should proceed when it comes to integrating CBRS into their existing in-building network.
“I think people agree that one inclusive network providing the IoT capabilities and all of the other services is going to be about a year or two away,” Dr. Bu said when asked if CRE owners should consider integrating a CBRS system with their BMS and standard carrier DAS or wait until they can do it all with one system. “It depends on the license auction and how the public network is going to be deployed by carriers. At that point, CRE owners will need to establish some kind of roaming agreement.
“But I think in limited or trial use cases within certain verticals, the building owner can benefit from deploying a private network for their own operations. Rather than relying on Wi-Fi, people need to manage some of these IoT devices or building management systems and see the benefit of LTE service reliability to actually get a taste of this system.”
The Band 48-enabled phone is another device that is expected to gain prominence as CBRS becomes more widely deployed according to Dr. Bu. Currently, the new iPhone 11 can support dual SIM and dual standby, which allows users to have two profiles, e.g. one for personal use and the other for business use. However, Dr. Bu anticipates this technology serving as just a use case for CBRS rather than a dual SIM configuration.
“Currently, the only way we could utilize a dual SIM configuration would be to have one SIM profile on the public network and one SIM profile on the CBRS private network,” he said. “That is something we can talk to our customers about. They are interested in this kind of configuration with the dual SIM capability phones, which can provide a private network for their own operations on one profile while maintaining voice connectivity to the public network on the other profile. But at this moment, this will be more on a limited or trial basis for the next year or two.”
COST EFFECTIVENESS OF CBRS
CBRS is currently less expensive and easier to deploy than a standard carrier DAS. While the cost comparison to Wi-Fi or DAS can depend on the applications involved, CBRS can potentially offer CRE owners more for their money. As Dr. Bu explained, traditional DAS’ purpose is to just solve a building’s cellular problem. On the other hand, a CBRS private network can not only solve the in-building cellular problem but can also provide additional services for IoT, building management systems, and other devices.
“You have to consider that the cost is probably significantly cheaper because now you have a network that can do multiple things,” Dr. Bu said.
Dr. Bu also points out it is important for CRE owners to consider the ongoing cost of managing a private network, however. This cost is higher than DAS because once the DAS is built, it is plugged into the public network and the carrier is responsible for the network’s quality and service. So if the network is down, the carrier will send someone to fix it. Private network owners will be responsible for handing those issues, which can be problematic for small and medium enterprises that do not have as large a budget.
“The small to medium-sized enterprises probably should look at their applications and the cost of maintaining the system,” Dr. Bu said.
WHERE CTS FITS INTO THE CBRS ECOSYSTEM
Whenever a new concept like CBRS is unveiled, new technologies and solutions emerge from various companies, which could make it difficult for others to stand out. That raises the question as to where integrators like CTS fall into the private network ecosystem. Currently, CTS is involved in several CBRS pilot projects with its enterprise customers and is quickly developing use cases for multiple vertical market segments.
“From a high level, as an integrator, we want to be the one who brings the partners together to provide a complete solution to the customer,” he said. “Our strong suit is in engineering, installation, maintenance, and managed services. We will work with customers to determine use cases, and then bring the best companies together to form partnerships and provide optimal solutions to our customers.
“CTS is also developing capabilities to bring CBRS onto a cloud-based service and provide subscription offerings for some of the smaller enterprise customers to easily deploy their private networks.”
Over the last 30 years, CTS has evolved into the Premier Provider of Mobility Network Solutions and are leaders in the industry, providing:
• Cadre of world-class operational and technical personnel located throughout the country with skills and project experience that is unmatched.
• A national team specifically created to support large project initiatives and assist in areas of rapid growth.
• An engineering and network design center occupied with world-class engineers unparalleled in the industry.
• A NOC to support our customers and their needs.
• Best in Class Finance, Sales, Administrative, IT and Purchasing teams.
As Dr. Bu points out, there’s still a lot to unpack when it comes to CBRS, but does not mean the CRE industry should be unprepared when the service is universally available. Everyone should be aware of CBRS’ potential cost savings, how it will enhance private networks and how it will be deployed—and CTS can help CRE owners with all of it.
Whether your venue is a sports arena, campus, hotel, medical facility, retail, or corporate enterprise, CTS is your first choice as integrator for CBRS solutions, 5G, IoT, in-building wireless and more.