November 15, 2019

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) has been hailed as the answer to a number of connectivity challenges in businesses today. The way it uses the spectrum is efficient, creative, and revolutionary, opening the doors to unbeatable data security, unmatched accuracy, and undeniably fast transmission speeds. Neutral host models enable property owners to explore various funding and installation methods for CBRS and other in-building wireless solutions.

For property owners who want to give tenants and guests the best coverage possible, it may be time to explore exactly what these technologies can do for you. Find out more about what CRBS is, how it evolved, how it can be used, and how to build the best possible network through a neutral host model. 

What Is CBRS?

CBRS essentially bends the traditional rules of coveted radio frequencies. These frequencies are the key to how wireless devices connect to one another, and the way in which we use them is more important than ever before. As technology moves forward, we need networks that can handle the growing demand for seamless connectivity across the country. 

CBRS is a cellular solution, as opposed to Wi-Fi. It can work with standard Wi-Fi, bolstering the signals however and whenever possible, but it’s a cellular technology at heart with all its benefits. 

The radio signals have been licensed in the past, but CBRS functions as a middle-ground between licensed and unlicensed connectivity solutions. It’s made of around 150 MHZ of the 3.5 GHz band, with some frequencies meeting the Priority Access License (PAL) criteria and others meeting the General Authorized Access (GAA) criteria. According to the latest estimate from FCC, PAL licenses will be auctioned off in the middle of 2020.

Digital network connection concept of skyscrapers. Symbolizing das system.

How Is CBRS Related to Neutral Host?

Owners can essentially use CBRS to create a neutral host LTE network that can improve indoor and outdoor connectivity. Property owners can connect devices throughout the property, making it easier for building staff and tenants to get the information they need when they need it. 

When it comes to setting up a CBRS network, you can choose to either own, finance, and operate it entirely, or, as with similar in-building wireless networks, you can enter an agreement that shifts the funding responsibility and ownership of the system to a third-party, neutral host operator. Engaging neutral host management services allows for the transfer of the wireless service system ownership from the carrier, the CBRS integrator (us), the property owner, or a third-party provider (also us).

The CBRS Neutral Host Model offers several critical benefits including:

  • Expedited time to market
  • Reduced operator costs
  • Offload of responsibility for maintaining the network
  • Diverse funding options for design and deployment
  • Increased network capabilities regardless of specific carrier

Why Would I Need Neutral Host Management Services?

Neutral host-managed services are ideal for those in need of flexible funding options, service provider coordination, and diverse ownership strategies.

Connectivity Wireless offers two unique services to address neutral hosts’ demands and has created solutions to meet even the most demanding needs of property owners and carriers. NeutralConnect and EnterpriseConnect both offer turnkey packages that bundle our entire suite of services with flexible ownership and financing models.

Learn more about our NeutralConnect and EnterpriseConnect models here.

How to Build a Neutral Host CBRS Network 

An in-building neutral host network begins and ends with finding the right provider. The solution for a school campus will be very different from that of a skyscraper or a government facility. Property owners need to find an enterprise that can make use of the 3.5 GHz band without causing too much interference to the existing public networks. In addition, you also need to be careful about the regulations that govern the use of the spectrum. 

The use of CBRS has been debated by a wide variety of groups, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The long-standing licensing rules have proved difficult to break, especially considering the number of parties affected by the change. However, regulators are making strides to accept and expand the CBRS to more organizations. The FCC recently voted to seek advice on how to auction off Priority Access Licenses in an effort to improve the CBRS. (This auction will take place in June 2020).

While PAL may not yet be available, carriers do have access to the GAA portion of the band. In addition, these networks will be built to support 5G, a new network that promises unfettered access to practically everything.

With a private LTE network, building owners will benefit from secure data, lower latency, and a strong capacity for unexpected surges of data. So, if there’s an emergency on one side of the building, everyone on the property will have access to the data (potentially mitigating the damage or even saving lives). 

What Are the Challenges of Setting Up?

While CBRS has created new opportunities for building owners, there are still several barriers that can stand in the way of a successful installation. Certain obstructions, such as metal buildings, can still be difficult to maneuver around, especially when it comes to positioning the equipment where the site needs coverage the most. 

Building owners also need to be careful that their network meets the licensing regulations at all times. If the regulations change (which is likely to happen in the near future), it will take foresight and planning to alter the CBRS to meet the new specifications. 

To bypass these barriers, you may want to choose a provider who can offer ongoing support. With the right partner, you get expert design, deployment, and installation of a CBRS as well as continuous testing and customization of the network as time goes by.  

Who Benefits Most?

CBRS is recommended for all types of venues; conference centers, stadiums, large- and medium-sized enterprises, universities – these are just a few examples of properties that require a degree of connectivity that Wi-Fi alone simply can’t provide. 

From 4k streaming video to last-mile replacement of the core network, industries like healthcare and manufacturing can get the coverage they need to get the job done. Of course, it’s also worth noting that CBRS can be fitted to smaller properties as well, including homes and small business offices. 

In terms of outside support for CBRS, it’s largely been the equipment manufacturers, cable operators, and service providers who want to see its expansion. Device manufacturers have not been so quick to come to the table. However, given the practical applications of CBRS and its many benefits, it is likely there will be a turning of the tide in the very near future. In fact, Apple and Samsung recently announced that their new iPhone and S10 will have access to the CBRS band. 

City skyline with communication and connectivity waves symbolizing distributed antenna system.

Is a CBRS Network Scalable?

Property owners today can’t just take into account the connectivity needs of today. If demand suddenly changes, few can afford to rip out the old system every few years and replace it from scratch. Not only is a “rip and replace” expensive, but the disruptions and headaches it causes can be damaging to the building’s profits and the staff’s morale. The good news is that CBRS is not only complementary to the standard Wi-Fi today, it’s also designed to scale with the technology of tomorrow. 

As the initial concerns of licensing begin to drift away, CBRS is paving the way for a more manageable network. Plus, there are more services than ever before for property owners who don’t have time to worry about the state of their equipment or the security gaps that can threaten their private data.

What to Look for In a Neutral Host Provider

Networks today can be operated and managed by mobile carriers or third-party providers. Now that companies no longer need to own spectrum, the future is wide open. Experts predict that you may only need a few extra nodes to support distances of up to a mile. That kind of power can handle practically anything. 

If you’re unsure of how to get started with CBRS, Connectivity Wireless has a number of options available. Whether you need advice on the configuration and installation, or you require ongoing management of your system, there’s a solution for you. CBRS is still new and having the right team by your side can be the key to avoiding unnecessary compliance fines or network outages. 

Experienced Neutral Host Providers

We offer basic packages to get you up and running and turnkey solutions that address every possible quirk of the property. Installation of a CBRS network can take some time, but our staff is here to work with even the tightest of deadlines. Connectivity Wireless can even help you negotiate a contract with your carrier.

Contact our team of experts today to learn more about our neutral host models and various wireless solutions that will improve your wireless coverage.

Want to learn more?

CBRS: What is it and how does it work?

CBRS or Wi-Fi: Which one should I choose for my building?

Private LTE & CBRS OnGo Deployments by Connectivity Wireless