Interview with Joel Lindholm, VP LTE Business at Ruckus Networks

ruckus wireless logoRuckus Networks are perhaps best known for Enterprise Wi-Fi, but have been an enthusiastic supporter of the CBRS initiative from the outset. We spoke with Joel Lindholm, VP LTE Business at Ruckus Networks, (an ARRIS company), to ask how their customers perceive CBRS, what use cases attract the greatest interest and how the rollout might play out over the coming year.

 

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When can we expect CBRS to be publicly available?

My colleague Dave Wright, CBRS Alliance President and Director of Regulatory Affairs at Ruckus Networks, is the expert on that. He spoke at a recent event in London (read our report here) and forecast a likely initial commercial launch by February 2019. The FCC has put in place the regulations, including making a final ruling on the PAL (Priority Access Licences).

We are now in the execution stage of the regulatory process, with approval already granted for several end user devices, CBSDs (Small Cells) and testing well underway for the SAS (back end spectrum co-ordination database). In fact Ruckus Networks developed the first CBSDs to be approved and have partnered with SAS vendors and others to make their solution as simple to deploy as Wi-Fi is today.

I’ve travelled extensively and spoken with many Enterprise customers and their providers. Many have already heard of CBRS and know it is coming. I feel that when commercial products are physically in their own hands that they can buy them for immediate use then we’ll see substantial interest.

It’s taken a few years to get CBRS off the ground and we now need to condition Enterprise users about this new tool they can take advantage of. LTE spectrum has always been the purview of the network operators, but CBRS unleashes the technology for much wider use cases. CBRS is a not simply another connectivity option, it’s platform for innovation. I expect to see a huge range of applications we hadn’t thought of coming to market.

Amazon Web Services DeepLens Workshop

Cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) want to encourage wider take-up with more content and applications running in their datacentres, taking advantage of the scale of processing power and analytics. DeepLens is a proof-point of that approach, combining local image processing onboard multiple video cameras with a central consolidation in the Cloud.

AWS Re:Invent, one of the largest developer conferences in the world with over 55,000 attendees, hosted a very successful CBRS demonstration this month. We announced a partnership with AWS, Athonet and Federated Wireless that supports this type of innovation and was demonstrated at the event.

Technicians deployed a local CBRS network within a couple of hours for the demonstration. The equipment could be installed quickly because all of the back-office configuration and core network is handled in the Cloud – it’s pretty much a plug-and-play arrangement, requiring a similar skillset to an Enterprise Wi-Fi installation.

This CBRS network supported 120 DeepLens video cameras simultaneously within a relatively small conference room. The network performed extremely well, whereas there would have been concerns about congestion if Wi-Fi had been used. The CBRS spectrum was dedicated locally for that purpose and there was no conflict or competition from any other wireless users. Signal strength and throughput was high compared to a service delivered from outside the building. Performance could be deterministic and guaranteed rather than best-effort.

The DeepLens cameras currently cost US$249 and connect through Wi-Fi or a USB port. A CBRS USB dongle can be plugged in for instant CBRS connectivity. Examples applications range from face detection to children’s games to reading books out loud. I’m sure there are many more possibilities currently beyond our imagination that will appear in the future.

How important is PAL for Enterprise Users?

PALs (Priority Access Licences) allow anyone to buy exclusive rights for a chunk of CBRS spectrum in a local area. The recent FCC ruling on this was a big milestone, allowing those who want that option to plan ahead and structure their investments. These licences are most likely to be of interest to those planning wide area outdoor coverage, although there may be a few prepared to pay extra for exclusive use for specific mission critical applications.

Overall, I suspect most Enterprise customers will operate perfectly well with GAA (General Authorised Access), which requires no licence fees. There might be more demand for CBRS spectrum in a few dense urban centres such as New York City; elsewhere most other large cities and smaller towns will have less intense competition.

In many cases, the nature of indoor deployments with low RF power and modern shielded construction means that much of the signal remains inside. Interference between CBRS installations in neighbouring buildings will be limited.


Realistically it will take several years before PAL licences are in use. It will take time to agree the detailed rules including the bidding process, administer the auction and manage the results. I’d guess at least two years and possibly more. That should allow users to gain experience of using GAA and determine the value of a PAL licence for their business.

How will CBRS evolve in Enterprise deployments

More and more people have heard of CBRS. There is still some mystique, so I spend a lot time explaining and educating about what it can do. Recent use case example are helping to get the word out - the Boingo trial at Dallas Love Field Airport, 360o racing coverage from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and serving residential accommodation at Pavlov media MDU student housing. These are variety of proof points that people are paying attention to.

But when you put a phone into someone’s hand, then it becomes very real.

Verizon is investing strongly into CBRS which helps drive volume, increase the range of devices and expand the eco-system as it all starts to come to fruition. There will be a waterfall effect where other competitors join/follow along over the next 6-12 months.

I’d forecast that 2020 is when we will see a critical mass of compatible phones deployed. In the meantime, Enterprises are interested in connecting points of sale, cameras, internal devices today knowing that the same investment will subsequently support popular smartphone models.

One example of that is a large university I have been talking with. They need mid to long term coverage improvement for students/staff/visitors/contractors, but in short term could deploy CBRS and issue compatible devices to their own staff early next year and start using it. They don’t have to wait for critical mass of handsets to be available to get payback. This sets the stage for later expansion.

LTE is very powerful and compares well to older proprietary systems For example, it’s easy to send video rather than just voice compared with today’s walkie-talkies. That opens up whole new way of thinking - macro and Wi-Fi networks can get jammed or have poor coverage. CBRS has good range and capacity that is directly under control of the Enterprise itself.

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