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Fiber for Breakfast Week 28: CBRS Update and the Role of Fiber
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Fiber for Breakfast Week 28: CBRS Update and the Role of Fiber

October 08, 2020

Fiber for Breakfast Week 28: CBRS Update and the Role of Fiber

As the world becomes more connected, the need for capacity is always growing. Part of the solution is CBRS, spectrum used by government agencies and other entities that ranges from 3,500 to 3,700 MHz. This summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) identified additional spectrum for shared wireless private broadband distributed among three tiers of users: incumbent users, priority access license users (PAL) and general authorized access users (GAA).

On a recent Fiber for Breakfast live video series, two experts discussed how CBRS will transform the way we connect with one another, and why fiber - is critical in utilizing this spectrum.

“The great thing about CBRS is that it is shared, so different people use it,” said Kurt Jacobs, director-solutions for JMA Wireless. “It can work with licensed on it, or it can work with lower bands and millimeter wave to provide an anchor for it or compliment it. All of this has to have fiber, so this is really  good news.”

Broadband demand has been higher than ever, thanks to COVID-19. CBRS tiered spectrum is enabling hundreds of new entrants into the market—specifically in rural areas. At the July 2020 CBRS PAL auction, the FCC auctioned seven 10 MHz blocks in each county of the United States, which made roughly 22,000 PAL licenses available.

This includes wireless carriers. With CBRS, wireless can bump up their networks with mid-band spectrum, setting the stage for 5G, fixed access wireless and private wifi networks. For many areas of the country where building out networks is cost prohibitive, this could be a game changer.

Jessica Zufolo, vice president of rural broadband strategy at Magellan Advisors, said this is particularly true in the agriculture industry. There is new technology emerging that allows farmers to more efficiently monitor and operate their farms. These devices run on spectrum, and lead to significant decreases in cost and time, and in turn profitability.

“There’s a tremendous need for spectrum, and the CBRS auction really provided a lot of interesting use cases and capacity,” she said. “The kinds of applications out there in the agriculture market—tractors, pivots, equipment—depend and rely on mobile broadband to provide that uplink and downlink data in real time.”

Having CBRS spectrum can allow users to uplink and downlink terabytes of data at one time, Zufolo said. This can transform the way we operate many industries—not just farming. Jacobs agreed, saying CBRS is going to open the doors of innovation for many entities, regardless of whom they serve.

“It won’t just be the big carriers deploying this,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of different use cases for this.”

Jacobs said accessibility to the spectrum benefits a diverse set of entities and enterprises, allowing people to have a level of ownership. Whether it’s a huge area of land—like a farm—or an individual building, these granular deployments will require more base stations, which will require more fiber, he said.

“It is a great opportunity for the fiber industry,” he said. “The same infrastructure, the same capacity can go connect in multiple use cases. And that really drives fiber whether it’s for fronthaul, for backhaul, and the granularity of CBRS really derives a densification of that.”

Zufolo said now is a great opportunity for those in the fiber business to start connecting with entities and companies that won contracts in the CBRS auction. She said as more people start using the spectrum, they will need a fiber backbone.

“I think FBA members should be thinking about how to participate and to talk to bidders, because they’re all going to need fiber at some point,” she said. “This is a really key anchor in the network architecture thinking, and the FCC has made pushing this spectrum out important. The demand is there, and investors are looking at these use cases.”

Join us for the next Fiber for Breakfast live video series on Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. ET. The topic? The Connecting Consumers Series: Google Fiber in West Des Moines.


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Written by:
Kate Jacobson

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