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Expert Opinion

Kurt Schaubach: The Top 5 Benefits of Shared Spectrum for Cable Operators

Broadband Breakfast Staff

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Kurt Schaubach, CTO of Federated Wireless

Cable operators are rethinking their strategies and rolling out new ways to service customers in-building, as well as to reach customers outside of their residences and places of business. It began with Wi-Fi and has expanded to include cellular services through Mobile Virtual Network Operator agreements. While cable operators have seen success with these two strategies, they have faced some challenges.

With Wi-Fi over unlicensed spectrum, operators are being limited by interference, congestion and security. This led to the pursuit of MVNO agreements to augment wireless services, but cable operators soon found themselves dependent on mobile networks that they have no control over.

Now there’s a new, cost-effective way for Multiple System Operators to offer wireless services to their business and residential customers: Citizens Broadband Radio Service shared spectrum. Here are five reasons cable operators should consider this opportunity that the Federal Communications Commission approved for commercial operation in January 2020.

1. It's an easy way to offer wireless services

Previously, the only way mobile services could be offered was through expensive spectrum auctions or an MVNO deal with a wireless operator who licenses the spectrum. Shared spectrum provides flexible and economically viable alternatives for MSOs to offer 4G services today and 5G services tomorrow:

  • Use the 80 megahertz of General Authorized Access spectrum by adding LTE radios to fixed network assets that cable operators already own and manage, such as indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi Access Points.
  • Acquire relatively low-cost spectrum through the Priority Access License auction scheduled for late July, where as much as 70 megahertz of spectrum in each market will be auctioned on a per-county basis. These licenses can be purchased in 10 megahertz increments at locations that make sense for the business.
  • Take advantage of the secondary market that will develop after the Priority Access License auctions as licenses are purchased but not used.

2. Low cost

Shared spectrum provides operators with the ability to add high performance, secure wireless services to their offering suite at a lower cost compared to exclusive spectrum auctions or Distributed Antenna Systems and at a cost comparable to carrier Wi-Fi. CBRS can be leveraged as a way to offload network traffic and offset some of the costs tied to MVNO deals. Additionally, there is a new business model developing that involves a “swap” arrangement with mobile operators, allowing their subscribers to roam onto the CBRS network in exchange for better MVNO terms. System operators can strategically deploy their own CBRS networks in locations where most of subscriber traffic is generated or consumed.

3. More control

Shared spectrum lets cable operators expand their wireless network with LTE that they control. The on-demand nature of shared spectrum means businesses can acquire whatever network capacity they need, where they need it. It makes the wireless MVNO business case eminently more viable, reducing cost and dependency on the host MVNO. Mobile subscriber traffic can be serviced on the 3.5 GigaHertz (GHz) band, reducing Wi-Fi interference on the 2.4/5 GHz bands for a better customer experience with both.

4. Get the most out of your access points

Several vendors who provide strand mounted carrier Wi-Fi solutions today are adding CBRS radios to their access points. Cable operators can add LTE to many of their installed access points, or plan to add dual-radio access points as part of the carrier Wi-Fi upgrade cycle. Adding LTE allows operators to offer coverage extension and capacity augmentation, which means higher quality of service for existing customers plus incremental business-to-consumer and business-to-business revenue opportunities.

5. Improve and expand premium services

Operators are continually trying to offer more services to keep existing customers and entice new customers. The high-performance, secure wireless capabilities offered by shared spectrum can be used to offer a premium in-building service to businesses. CBRS can also be deployed in a fixed wireless configuration in order to increase suburban and rural capacity and coverage for both business and residential customers for a seamless and consistent quality of experience.

All in all, shared spectrum enables cable operators to quickly and cost effectively add LTE that they control, enhancing their network and generating new revenue streams.

Kurt Schaubach is Chief Technology Officer at Federated Wireless, one of five Spectrum Access System administrators charged by the FCC with managing interference in the CBRS Band. Schaubach’s 25 years of wireless industry experience helps Federated Wireless to develop next-generation wireless architecture. He has led the acquisition and integration of two wireless infrastructure companies, and currently serves on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Spectrum Management Advisory Committee. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

BroadbandBreakfast.com accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC. 

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