Man on cellphone

Dish said today that it plans to collaborate on a pilot project with FreedomFi that would enable Dish wireless customers to use the FreedomFi CBRS hotspot network. If the pilot is successful, the technology could help Dish extend the coverage of the wireless network it is building from scratch with the goal of competing with the nation’s major wireless providers.

The FreedomFi hotspots will use CBRS spectrum that doesn’t require a license, an approach known as general authorized access (GAA). In email answers to questions from Telecompetitor, a FreedomFi spokesman said the company’s hotspots will be open to multiple carriers and that the company already has reached a deal with a small carrier known as GigSky to use the hotspots to augment its service.

FreedomFi expects more such deals in the future.

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CBRS Hotspots

According to the spokesman, CBRS hotspots provide two to three times the range of Wi-Fi hotspots and “much higher reliability of wireless connection.”

As he explained, “CBRS cells generally use the same wireless protocols as carriers – LTE and 5G – to it’s easier to use such as seamless extension of the network vs. Wi-Fi, which is a completely different protocol and has access points interfering with each other.”

Almost all cellphones released in the U.S. in the last year can use CBRS spectrum, the spokesman said, including all iPhones, all Pixels and most of the higher-end Samsung phones.

Asked about the size of the FreedomFi CBRS hotspot network, the spokesman said the company has 50,000 small cells on order from Sercomm.

FreedomFi isn’t concerned about congestion in the unlicensed portion of the CBRS band.

“CBRS is still fairly new, and it will take a while (given the relatively short range of small cells) to hit congestion problems,” the spokesman said.

He noted that FreedomFi small cells also operate in the licensed portion of the CBRS band and that the company aims to partner with operators that have CBRS licenses to offload traffic onto the FreedomFi small cell network using the licensed portion of the band.

According to a press release from Dish and FreedomFi about the CBRS hotspots, the companies will also “actively work on a bilateral roaming agreement.”

The press release also notes that the CBRS hotspot pilot will use open source Magma Core, which was developed with key contributions from Facebook Connectivity.

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