Verizon CBRS Coverage is Expanding

Sara Nuss
December 8, 2022

The opening of the CBRS spectrum has made waves in the telecommunications community. Its unveiling has opened many doors to provide much-needed support to the burgeoning 5G networks in the nation. 5G is huge. The next generation of wireless communication on large and small scales will make tremendous waves, and the CBRS spectrum is going to be an integral part of that. With 5G speeds in the United States, organizations will be able to undergo serious technological growth and development. 

Verizon is one of the major wireless providers in the United States, and they, like the others, have been racing to roll out a 5G network before any of the other companies. This is a decade-long process, and every company is spending serious cash to make that happen as soon as possible. In order to secure its spot on the CBRS spectrum, Verizon spent $45.5 billion in an auction. 

Verizon CBRS — All You Need to Know

Verizon bid a colossal amount to secure its license to utilize the CBRS spectrum. Verizon CBRS coverage will improve the speed and coverage of their 5G network, helping transition their comprehensive 4G LTE network to the up-and-coming 5G. This change will take a long time, but every incremental change (starting in metropolises) will result in more and more people enjoying the truly astonishing 5G speeds. New phone models work both with 4G LTE and 5G networks and are able to switch between them with no downtime! This section will cover what it means for Verizon CBRS coverage to be on the up and up. 

How does CBRS Affect Data Speeds?

Data speeds on the CBRS spectrum are faster than on conventional coverage. The speeds within a CBRS-supported network as of December 2021 were almost 80% faster than regular 4G LTE speeds. For Verizon,  that was 74.4 Mbps using the mid-band connection and 41.6 Mbps without it. At this time, Verizon was far in the lead in terms of speed, with T-Mobile mid-band download speeds peaking at 61.6 Mbps and AT&T at 47.3 Mbps. 

On a 4G network, CBRS was able to dramatically increase the download speeds of devices on that network. As technology grows, so does the sheer volume of data that is transferred on the networks. Cell towers and rooftop antennas have increased steadily in volume over the years as these major wireless companies have witnessed the increase in data that is transferred over the network. People use a lot of data, companies use a lot of data, and company processes use a lot of data. 

This mid-band spectrum is the basis for all CBRS networks in the United States, and in December 2021, those networks were limited to 4G LTE speeds. Now Verizon is using its CBRS permit to bolster its 5G network, working to give its fast 5G network more coverage around the United States. 

When the CBRS towers were bolstering the 4G LTE networks, one of the clear weaknesses was that these awesome download speeds deteriorated quickly as users moved further away from the base towers. The loss of signal strength was far greater than with the non-CBRS towers that the rest of the network utilizes. That is all set to change with the unveiling of the 5G networks! 

Verizon CBRS and 5G Networks

The Verizon CBRS network is creating a much more competitive scene in the race to create a fast 5G network in the United States.

The 5G network is tailored to mid-band frequencies in a way that 4G LTE was not. Verizon’s CBRS spectrum will prove to be the biggest player in their 5G network as those towers are able to cover a much larger area than they were on the 4G LTE network. On the old network, users would see noticeable speed drops as they walked away from a tower. That will not be the case at all on 5G networks, in fact, CBRS-based networks will be more efficient than conventional towers on the new 5G network. 

5G networks are going to be groundbreaking. Network speeds have been increasing on 4G LTE networks for some time, and they will continue to increase in the near future, but 5G is an entirely new technology. 4G LTE, like every “G” network before it, is limited by its technology and infrastructure. The difference between 4G LTE speeds and 3G speeds is huge in the sense that a 3G network would never be faster than a 4G network. Just about every process has been constructed around the limits of the 4G LTE network. On a phone, for instance, there is no reason for video calls to only reach a certain definition on a 4G LTE network. In a strange loop, companies are not interested in developing technology that would never work on the 4G LTE network. 

Once 5G networks become a reliable and far-reaching way to transfer data the whole equation is going to change. Imagine if a network could support a phone on a dozen simultaneous video calls. Imagine, if you will, what it would be able to do if it used all of that bandwidth on one task. 

Verizon CBRS Timeline

Yes, 5G will be revolutionary and it will open a variety of doors to create a lot of new applications of the network for individuals and corporations, but it is not right around the corner. It is, in its current state, a flashy headline and an exciting piece of news, but it is nowhere near its maximum potential. The proof is in the fact that Verizon spent over $40 billion to secure a spot on the CBRS band, and they are pouring money into research, development, and the construction of infrastructure that will support their future 5G network. 

The new network will replace the old one in steps. As of right now, certain metropolitan areas can enjoy incrementally faster speeds on the 5G network, but nothing like what it will be in 2030. What is most exciting about that, however, is that there are a lot of steps on the ladder, and at each step, people will see an increase in speed. The networks will be constantly getting faster and covering a greater portion of the United States. 

What is CBRS? 

Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is a mid-band frequency that’s just been opened up to a variety of users. Incumbents, PALs, and GAAs (more on that later!) have the ability to use this frequency band. Doors open and opportunities grow after the relaxing of regulations on this band of radio frequencies in the United States. This is specific to the United States, as the CBRS spectrum is a, more or less, arbitrary distinction. CBRS occupies a bandwidth of 3.5 to 3.7 GHz, allowing all of its users to transmit data on those frequencies. That bandwidth designation is specific to the United States. The most important part about that designation is that it is specified throughout the region. 

There is always a danger of interference, like when you are listening to the radio and it starts flicking between one station and the next. That is because you are on the edge of two separate zones. Zooming out, there is nothing wrong with a company using 3.6 GHz on the west coast and someone using that same frequency on the east coast, but there is a danger when two companies in the same city start using the same frequency.  

CBRS and Network Availability

CBRS, like all of our wireless communication, runs through radio frequencies. These frequencies are closely monitored by various organizations all over the world. For instance, in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) works tirelessly to make sure there is no interference along the information that is sent and received along the radio waves.

If you are driving and you get interference on the radio that’s no big deal, but think about a hospital. There is a tremendous amount of information moved around a hospital, and a speedy network allows them to do that effectively. If there is any interference that would be absolutely devastating. Or, if you will, think about an airport. If their radio frequency with an incoming plane is jammed, they can’t let the plane know whether it is safe or not to land. There are three major areas where the CBRS spectrum has been sent out to companies in the United States. 

  • Incumbents are users who have used private frequencies for a long time. Two major players in this are the military and satellite communications.
  • Priority Access Licenses (PALs) are carriers who pay to license part of the spectrum, usually to bolster their own communications. 
  • General Authorized Access (GAA) are private companies that utilize a part of the spectrum for their network. These licenses often switch hands as companies need more or less bandwidth for their communication.

Practical Applications of CBRS

Verizon CBRS and CBRS in general are able to be used in a wide variety of practical cases. One of the reasons that it is generating so much buzz is that it allows a tremendous amount of technological innovation. Four areas in which it can be used are as follows. 

  • Warehouses and distribution centers use CBRS to connect autonomous vehicles and robots at a greater range.
  • Healthcare centers use private mobile networks for staff to connect and collaborate using hospital-specific smartphones and other devices
  • Large public venues segment networks for backstage staff as well as to reserve Wi-Fi for guests. This allows their networks to function efficiently and without delay regardless of the overall traffic on other frequencies
  • Retail stores use CBRS to keep staff-only frequencies to ensure rapid communication regardless of mobile network congestion

CBRS in these areas can increase their efficiency and effectiveness, as the technology gets better and better, continually lowering costs. This is big news for all of these industries, as it is allowing them to lay down infrastructure that is completing a lot of the tasks they rely on in record time. 

CBRS in a Major Wireless Network

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, but there are other companies, some decentralized wireless networks, that are also moving in to bring up their own networks. 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. 

In a decentralized wireless network, CBRS allows them to create a network that is fast and much cheaper than, say, creating a 4G LTE fixed wireless network like many major networks have today. The ability to create a network with a much lower cost than, say, 10 years ago has sparked some new competition amongst wireless networks. 

Competition with DeWi networks

There are DeWi networks, Helium is one example, that has created a promising infrastructure on a wildly different model than major wireless networks as we know them today. They have not, however, created an infrastructure strong enough to compete with major wireless networks. DeWi networks have the ability to provide data at much lower costs than cell phone coverage today in the United States, but the infrastructure, coverage, and strength of their network are not up to par with major wireless networks at this time. 

There is a chance that in the future there will be another alternative providing mobile coverage on your devices, but only time will tell. For now, DeWi networks are able to provide services to other sectors like the internet of things and larger businesses. For now, there is no DeWi alternative to a major wireless network like Verizon CBRS. 

What is a DeWi Network?

A decentralized wireless (DeWi) network functions by selling its hotspots to its customers in order to create a network where all of these hotspots function like mini cell towers, providing comprehensive coverage over areas as large as the whole world. There is so much less infrastructure necessary to support these devices, as many are the size of little boxes that fit on your windowsill, plug into an outlet, and chug along using the same amount of energy as a lightbulb. 

One major hurdle is — how do DeWi networks get their customers to purchase these hotspots? Helium, one of the first DeWi networks, decided on crypto. They have a cryptocurrency (HNT) that they reward to everyone who has a hotspot up and running. An incentive-based system like this is key in getting customers onboard and having them purchase these little hotspots that are all stacked together to create a nationwide network. DeWi networks have the potential to create a network where the data is much cheaper than we are used to, at least in the states. Their network functions where users pay for exactly how much data they are using each month, and everyone pays the same going rate for data consumed. 

Using a DeWi network for wireless coverage has a lot of potential but they have a long way to go before they can compete with the telecommunications giants that have nestled into the marketplace in the United States. Only time will tell if DeWi networks become a thing of the future, or if they struggle to get off the ground. 

Key Takeaways

Whew, we made it! We hope that this article has answered all of your questions about Verizon CBRS, as well as what Verizon plans to do with their CBRS access and what that CBRS access really means. Take a look at this absolutely adorable puppy, and then return for our quick key takeaways of Verizon CBRS. There is a lot to learn about this up-and-coming service, and knowing its ins and outs is a good step in figuring out how Verizon is using this new technology! 

  • On the CBRS spectrum, data speeds are faster than they would be on conventional coverage as we know it today. 
  • 5G networks are an amazing technological breakthrough, but they will take a long time to come into full effect. 
  • The CBRS spectrum is a mid-band frequency that’s just been opened up to a variety of users. Incumbents, PALs, and GAAs have the ability to use this frequency band.
  • CBRS allows decentralized wireless networks to create a network that is fast and much cheaper than, say, creating a 4G LTE fixed wireless network like many major networks have today.

DeWi networks may emerge that compete with major wireless networks in their ability to provide wireless coverage to citizens, but that day is not today.

Sara Nuss
Sara Nuss is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in wireless, dewi, phone plan advice & blockchain.
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