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5G CBRS — How the Private Spectrum Will Change Communication in America

Kyle Reyes
January 8, 2023

The CBRS spectrum is gaining a lot of traction in the communication world. It is a way for private enterprises to enjoy secure and fast communication on a private wireless network. Access to 5G CBRS will give private enterprises ways to construct robust communication networks without relying on a wireless provider to send their data. 

The CBRS spectrum is a mid-band frequency that is separate from the frequencies used by other methods of data transmission, and it is now available for, more or less, public use. This has big implications for the industry, and this article will cover the following:

  • 5G CBRS in the United States
  • What is 5G CBRS? 
  • 5G CBRS Applications

CBRS in the United States

The CBRS band is the name in the United States for the private spectrum that’s recently become available for its residents. CBRS was made available by the FCC in 2016, and in the following years, it has created tremendous change in the way that businesses are able to set up communications networks. In April 2016, the FCC opened up a lot of that spectrum for private use which created a new way for companies and corporations to communicate using 4G LTE and 5G on their private networks. 

The FCC and the SEA handle the regulation of this new frequency band in order to ensure that there is no interference on the spectrum and that new CBRS devices are being documented and that their broadcasts are all occurring in acceptable locations.  

What is a Private Spectrum?

Private spectrums are networks that are set up and run by the company instead of a third-party company. A common example of this is major wireless networks in the United States. Prior to private spectrum, companies had to use a third party to set up networks within their business. There were and still are benefits to using a third party, but it decreases security and, now that the private spectrum is increasing in popularity and availability, it increases the running costs of the network. 

Companies are turning to the private spectrum with increased regularity, taking the availability of CBRS and using it to create their own networks. The PAL access tier of CBRS is currently very expensive and only really available to big corporations who can purchase bits of the band in auction, but the GAA tier opens up the possibility for businesses to use the CBRS band without a big upfront cost. Private spectrum allows companies to take advantage of 5G CBRS, perhaps earlier than major networks will be able to get it up and running across the country. 5G CBRS solutions are available on a smaller scale for companies that want to make the most of the huge increase in speed of the next generation of wireless connectivity. 

There is a whole lot of code creating the framework of CBRS in the United States. That framework is there to ensure that everything continues smoothly as 5G CBRS grows and develops. 

What is CBRS?

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service is driving the change to CBRS 5G. There are a variety of ways people and enterprises can use CBRS and there are three tiers of access, explained as follows:

  • Incumbents are VIP users and have access to the entirety of the frequency band. They are protected against interference from the other tiers and have access to the frequency band at all times.
  • Priority Access Licenses are given out in auction and these licenses give the corporation a slice of the spectrum up to 3.6 GHz. Licenses are given out in three-year increments. The bidders on this tier are most often big service providers or other big companies, as the licenses are very expensive. 
  • The General Authorized Access tier is meant for the general public. Users have access to their specific frequency, but their usage is overridden if either of the other tiers is using that same frequency in their general area. 

All of these tiers are overseen by the SAS, which is a regulatory database that ensures that there is no interference across different users and different tiers. For any device to connect to the CBRS spectrum, it first has to register itself with the SAS. 

How does CBRS work in the United States?

5G CBRS in the United States gives people the ability to host shared and private networks. 

There are 4G LTE CBRS networks and 5G CBRS networks, but the 5G networks are where this new technology really shines. Major wireless companies are using CBRS solutions to bolster their 4G LTE networks while they transition to 5G, but that is a much larger undertaking than implementing a 5G CBRS solution for a company. Many companies are in the position of deciding whether they should use Wi-Fi for communications, a major wireless network, or CBRS. All of the options have advantages and disadvantages, but lately, CBRS has grown greatly in popularity amongst all sectors of corporations. 

Using CBRS as a private 4G LTE or 5G network can enhance the speed at which devices can communicate with one another. CBRS technology presents a cost-effective way for companies to create and maintain the infrastructure necessary to host communication between all of their devices. In the United States, 5G CBRS networks, and the devices that use them, have to enter into the Spectrum Access System (SAS) database where they keep a record of all the spectrum that’s being used all over the United States. 

The SAS works to make sure there is no interference on the network as well as =that the higher tier users of the CBRS Spectrum do not get interference from the lower tiers. The SAS regulates these devices, and this step is to make sure that no devices start broadcasting without them knowing it first. If two devices attempted to broadcast on the same frequency in the same place, neither would reach its destination. Thus, this system catalogs and keeps accurate records of all of the bandwidth being used all over the United States. 

Because the lowest tier of CBRS can be accessed by anyone, there are a lot of companies with a small geographic footprint that use the service. These companies are not spanning the whole nation, rather they are in a building or a county. Because they are only using it in such a small area, it would be inefficient if they controlled that specific frequency across the entirety of the United States. The SAS divides the spectrum into areas where it is booked and areas where it is available to optimize the frequency band’s usage across the United States. 

What is 5G CBRS?

The CBRS spectrum spans the United States and provides private spectrum wireless for companies who set it up.

The CBRS spectrum opens a lot of opportunities for 4G LTE and 5G networks, but CBRS 5G is at the pinnacle of wireless communication. It provides lower latency, higher bandwidth, and lightning-fast speeds. 5G CBRS networks open up the possibility for businesses to undergo significantly more data-intense machine-to-machine communication due to the speed at which the data is traveling. 

Mobile networks are in the midst of transitioning from 4G LTE networks to 5G networks, but that is a very long process. Mobile networks are spread out across the entire United States, and that is a staggeringly large amount of foundation to lay before they can have a 5G network that is as complete as their current 4G LTE network. The CBRS 5G allows businesses and enterprises to take advantage of 5G solutions that are available on much smaller scales and build a network on their private spectrum. 

As businesses start to switch to CBRS 5G, they need to make sure that the devices they are using are compatible with the new technology as well. 5G is still in its early stages, and while it is a direct upgrade from 4G LTE, it requires a solid foundation upon which it can stand before it reaches its fullest potential. 

When companies switch to 5G CBRS, they will be able to increase machine control and precision while monitoring the progress through high-quality video footage. This transition is especially helpful for companies that have a lot of autonomous work, as this low-latency network will allow them to undergo tasks and activities that were not possible with 4G LTE networks. 

The increased control and security of 5G CBRS and private spectrum networks is a huge boon for businesses in the future. Using a major wireless network to oversee communications is convenient, but as data traffic gets more and more important for companies, the lack of security and the cost to use their network will make 5G CBRS a better and better solution as time goes on. Another hurdle for 5G CBRS is WiFi. WiFi solutions are tremendously powerful, but 5G CBRS has one big advantage in that regard and it is long-distance communication. One problem with WiFi is that it does not extend far from its point of origin, making communication over any distance very challenging. 

5G CBRS Capabilities

The potential for 5G CBRS is astonishing. It will likely reach speeds three or four times faster than 4G LTE, and the potential for using that speed and low latency in various applications opens many doors. The speed that data can be transferred is a soft cap on the kind of technology that gets developed. If an autonomous process at a factory had a specific amount of latency built in, when that latency gets removed all of those processes can go back to the drawing board with a new set of variables on the table.

For example, imagine a runner who always wore a weighted vest when he raced. Apart from the strangeness of it, they would figure out their running routine around that weighted vest. One day, when they take it off, they have to figure out how to run all of their races again because they are so used to a different way of running. When 5G CBRS is set up, there will be a huge change in the way things can be run across every industry. 

5G CBRS Applications

Autonomous processes, like the one that powers these little guys, are run with a tremendous back-and-forth of data from a central server to each model. 5G CBRS will power networks like these and elevate them to new heights. 

There are a lot of applications of 5G CBRS that are being developed, and there are a lot of them that are happening today. 5G CBRS is a new and exciting way to communicate, and at this stage, it is still full of potential ways forward that are as of yet undiscovered. At this time, major wireless networks and enterprise infrastructure are taking the plunge into 5G CBRS and using it to supplement their current methods of communication. This allows them to enter into this next generation of wireless technology at the front of the pack, enjoying the technological advances of the future. 

Major Wireless Networks

The CBRS spectrum is creating a big stir in the telecommunications world. As major networks rush to create a reliable 5G network, the ability to use 5G CBRS is a huge boon. In a wireless network, these companies are able to leverage the strengths of the CBRS spectrum in order to create the fastest network they can. They can output a lot of hotspots throughout the country, especially when they are using technology solutions like those supplied by the OnGo Alliance

CBRS has shaken up the system in that it is available for a lot of companies. Verizon has bid a tremendous amount to secure its spot in two of the categories, both PAL and GAA. That security allows them to roll out a serious amount of CBRS hotspots throughout the country. CBRS in a major wireless network is very powerful because it allows them to bolster their data transference, upping the spread of their coverage as well as the speed all throughout the country. 

The OnGo Alliance is working to create an environment where 5G CBRS is able to shine in the United States. They provide technical solutions to companies and organizations that need dedicated wireless networks to work as efficiently as possible. They have a lot of partners, like Google and Verizon, that are a part of the alliance. They are not, however, limiting their solutions to major wireless companies. The most exciting pull of 5G CBRS is that it allows any business to output a private network and construct one that works exceptionally well without relying on a major wireless company. 

Enterprise Infrastructure

Outside of the major wireless networks, many other companies are using 5G CBRS as potential ways to create and upkeep a fast and secure network. One of those companies is Helium. Helium is working to create a decentralized mobile network using 5G CBRS with a business plan to sell their hotspots to the public and reward that public for upkeeping their hotspots. Instead of paying a company to create and maintain a network, they are paying their customers. Prior to entering the 5G CBRS scene, Helium has created a functional LoRaWAN network to connect internet of things devices all across the world. Their success has led them to start work on their 5G network, and they plan to continue rolling it out and starting to connect devices to it soon.

They are but one example of enterprise infrastructure using 5G CBRS to connect their business to a new way of communication. There are a lot of businesses working to take advantage of the new technology, and there are a lot of businesses that are watching with a keen eye on how this first round goes. Helium, for example, has had a lot of ups and downs in its years of operation, but it has learned from its missteps and grown into the company it is today. There are a lot of takeaways from 5G CBRS up to this point, and they will only grow as time goes on. 

Key Takeaways

We hope that this article has answered all your questions about 5G CBRS! This topic is undergoing serious development as technology continues to improve, but for now, here are some of the key takeaways about 5G CBRS!

  • 5G CBRS is on the private spectrum in the United States, providing a new way for communication to happen around the country. 
  • Other countries have private spectrums in other frequency bands. The CBRS spectrum was assigned a bit arbitrarily. 
  • There are serious technological developments awaiting 5G CBRS, and as the network grows, so will the applications that rely on that new fast speed. 

5G CBRS is a complete upgrade from 4G LTE systems, and it will increase the speed, capacity, and lower the latency of all the devices on its network.

Kyle Reyes
Kyles Reyes is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in the wireless industry, phone plan comparisons & advice.