Earlier this month, the CBRS Alliance held its second all-member meeting here in San Diego, and it was an impressive gathering of diverse companies — everything from large and small mobile and cable operators, to wireless Internet service providers, to vendors from all areas of the ecosystem. By all accounts, it turned out to be a very successful three-day meeting. I counted around 190 delegates from more than 80 different companies — an impressive turnout considering that the Alliance was launched less than a year ago.
In case you are not familiar with the CBRS Alliance, it is an industry organization focused on enabling LTE networks in the new CBRS spectrum in the U.S. This 150 MHz of spectrum will be shared among three tiers: incumbents, priority access licensed (PAL), and general authorized access (GAA).
One highlight of the meeting was the much-anticipated keynote speech by the FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly (pictured at right). There was a lot of interest in what he had to say because the FCC is in the process of possibly making changes to some of the CBRS rules governing the PAL licenses. Many companies and groups, including Qualcomm, have made filings on this topic. Qualcomm has proposed that the FCC make changes to the CBRS technical rules to enable use of channel bandwidths of more than 10 MHz without requiring power reductions, an important change for use of CBRS for both LTE and 5G. In his speech, Commissioner O’Rielly expressed support for such a change. Moreover, Commissioner O’Rielly did not call for overhauling the three-tier structure of CBRS or for any change to the rules governing the GAA tier. You can read his speech in its entirely here.
Another impressive aspect of this meeting was the many demonstrations that were showcased. We saw 13 different CBRS demos from 14 different companies. Six of these were operating live over-the-air in the CBRS spectrum, all in the same room which is quite a feat (spectrum analyzer pictured at left). I was even more encouraged to see multiple live demos using band 48, which is the 3GPP-approved LTE band-class for the CBRS spectrum. In two of our partners’ demos, Nokia/Sprint/Federated Wireless and Airspan showed their CBRS small cells (a.k.a. Citizens Broadband Radio Service Device or CBSD) communicating live with our B48-capable test devices that use a Qualcomm Snapdragon LTE modem supporting CBRS operation. This is a huge milestone toward commercial CBRS deployments. A cool aspect of the Airspan demo was that it used chipsets from Qualcomm Technologies at both ends, both in the small-cell and the mobile test device, ensuring high end-to-end performance.
Naturally, my favorite demo was the one my team in Qualcomm Research put together. It showed how a private LTE network in the CBRS spectrum can be used for industrial IoT applications with all the high-performance benefits of using LTE technology: high data rates, capacity, coverage, seamless mobility, reliability, security, future-proof architecture, and interoperability. A key benefit of private networks is that they are local so they can be optimized for specific IoT services and keep sensitive data on the premises. If you want to learn more about how private LTE networks work, please take a look at our website.
The meeting was not just about keynotes and demos. The majority of the time was allocated to the different working groups. In the co-existence technical work group, the first internal technical report addressing LTE coexistence in CBRS was completed, and the technical specification is planned to be finalized by the end of the year. The networking technical work group continues its work on technical reports and specifications for several use cases, including neutral hosts and private networks. Another working group is setting up a test and certification program by year end that will provide vendors everything they need to get LTE-based CBSD certified for CBRS operation. The marketing working group is preparing for upcoming conferences such as a CBRS event at the Mobile World Congress Americas. In addition, the alliance created a new business working group that received a tremendous amount of interest with participation by both member and non-member companies that outstripped our wildest expectations. The initial plan for this new working group will be to drive high-level requirements in three different segments: private buildings, public spaces and venues, and industrial IoT.
All in all, it was some very exciting three days and I think all the delegates went back home both inspired and committed to working toward commercial LTE network deployments in the CBRS spectrum, which for GAA we may see as early as the end of this year.