cbrs allianceThe CBRS Alliance today launched brand and certification programs under the “OnGo” brand that are aimed at enhancing the interoperability of wireless equipment operating in the CBRS spectrum band with the goal of achieving broader adoption. A press release emphasizes CBRS applications involving private LTE networks and alternatives to distributed antenna systems that go by the term “neutral host.”

But in an interview, the chair of the CBRS Alliance test and certification working group said the CBRS OnGo initiative also could benefit fixed wireless ISPs, including those who already have deployed equipment in a portion of the CBRS band that is already available for unlicensed use.

“We are currently seeing commercialization of this band late this year,” said Kurt Schaubach who, in addition to chairing the working group is also chief technology officer for Federated Wireless, a provider of spectrum access system (SAS) technology that will enable multiple user types to share CBRS spectrum which includes spectrum in the 3550-3700 MHz band.

To make the CBRS concept “accessible to the masses,” it “needs to be simple and approachable,” commented Schaubach.

He likened the “OnGo” name to the name “Wi-Fi,” which was created as a more consumer-friendly descriptor for wireless LAN technology.

The CBRS Alliance is still finalizing marketing plans for the OnGo brand, a spokesperson said, adding that the alliance hopes to agree on a logo design soon.

Private LTE networks could use licensed or unlicensed spectrum and would be self-contained.

Schaubach has seen strong interest in private LTE on the part of manufacturers interested in using the technology to support robotics, as well as from electric utilities and oil and gas companies.

Such companies “need something more robust than Wi-Fi but don’t want to enter into a commercial agreement” with a wireless service provider, Schaubach explained.

Instead, those companies want to own and operate their own private LTE networks as part of their IT infrastructure, he said.

Neutral host technology will make LTE connectivity available within a building and will offer connectivity to multiple wireless providers in much the way that distributed antenna technology does today but at a lower cost, Schaubach said.  A CBRS Alliance press release estimates neutral host deployment costs at 40 cents per square foot.

While WISPs are not referenced in the press release, Schaubach noted that some companies that make equipment for those companies are CBRS Alliance members and that WISPs could benefit from the new interoperability standards because it could give them the ability to use a mix of vendors in their deployments.

He also noted potential new business models for WISPs that could be enabled by a broader ecosystem and broader interoperability. These could include providing roaming to mobile carriers that may deploy LTE service in the CBRS band and entering the mobile market using a combination of its own infrastructure and a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement.

Not Taking Sides in Spectrum Battle
The CBRS Alliance has not taken sides in the ongoing battle over CBRS band license areas and license length. Current rules call for small geographic license areas and relatively short-term licenses, which could make licenses more affordable for WISPs and private LTE network operators. But large mobile operators have asked for larger license areas and longer-term licenses, which they say would increase their likelihood of using the spectrum for 5G deployments.

Proponents of larger license areas and longer-term licenses argue that a substantial portion of the CBRS band would still be available for unlicensed use for WISP and private LTE networks, but WISPs say that unlicensed spectrum could quickly become crowded.

Schaubach downplayed that claim, however. “It won’t get crowded overnight,” he said of the unlicensed portion of the band.

OnGo interoperability efforts will focus initially on SAS interoperability but also will encompass devices and other elements of the CBRS ecosystem, Schaubach said.

Longer term, he said the brand could be applied to other spectrum bands that will be made available on a shared basis.

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