What is the ESC network in CBRS?
An essential component to deploying shared spectrum over wireless bands utilized by incumbents like the U.S. Navy is the need to ensure that they do not receive interference from new commercial users. While software-defined technologies can securely open up and dynamically manage access to bands for multiple users from carriers and cable providers to smart city and commercial property managers, the Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) network is the other crucial ingredient in CBRS for secure access to valuable spectrum for commercial applications, while assuring access for incumbent federal users when and where it’s needed.
State of Federated Wireless ESC Network Deployment in CBRS
My team has been implementing on our ESC network for over two years. Federated Wireless leads the industry in the reach and readiness of this infrastructure across the continental United States, with the technology developed, site locations for Dynamic Protection Areas (DPA) secured, and ESC sensor at the ready for final installation. Our ESC sites can be found all along America’s coastline, from biker bars to luxe beach resorts. Each site has been painstakingly vetted and specifications defined so that the CBRS network dynamically responds to the changing use of spectrum by Navy vessels without impacting their use or those of commercial users tapping into the shared band.
The bulk of the hard work is already done, with site acquisition and development now moving very quickly. Initial sites are targeted for major coastal cities. These are about done, and the entire network is on track for completion during Q1 2019. Because our ESC hardware certification is happening in parallel with installation planning, and ITS lab testing is expected to be completed in late Q4, we’re able to have sites go live very quickly—something that puts us well ahead of others.
High Availability: A Critical Success Factor
We partnered with technology experts and had numerous contractors on the ground scouting the best locations, working with property owners and carrying out installations to make shared spectrum over the 3.5 GHz band a reality. By placing ESC sensors as close as possible to the shoreline, often on rooftops, existing cell towers, and water tanks with the clearest line of sight to the ocean, we’re able to sense and react to Navy radioactivity across the entire U.S. coastline.
My team focused on the need for high availability from day one. We designed our CBRS ESC network so it doesn’t have a single point of failure. If this wasn’t the case, the failure of a single sensor could cause the need to activate an exclusion zone over the entire 100 MHz between 3.55 and 3.65 GHz for the duration of the outage, in order to fully protect incumbents. This is not a viable option for any customer running a commercial network. Instead, our network is designed so that each segmented coastal DPA region has several ESC sensors monitoring for naval radioactivity. This translates into reliable service assurance for our customers and theirs.
Speed of Deployment
Today, things are moving at breakneck speeds towards Initial Commercial Deployments (ICD) in Q4 ‘18. Our ICD proposal covers close to 16,000 sites across 47 states and the District of Columbia, covering every imaginable use case. We are ready to apply the same principle to the ESC network that the FCC applied to the SAS network. Once ITS testing is complete in late Q4, we’re ready to turn up our ESCs anywhere in the country to support ICD, making it a fully comprehensive and complete shared spectrum deployment. By the end of Q1, we’ll be able to support any deployment in any location accessing the full 150 MHz of the CBRS band, all managed by our Spectrum Controller with ESC capability built-in. We are starting to see the first certified CBRS devices on the market. PALs won’t be finalized until sometime in 2019 or later, which means GAA access to the entire 3.5 GHz band will be available for early adopters when it all goes live later this year.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Over the past several years, we and our many industry partners have focused heavily on developing technologies to make shared spectrum possible while working closely with government agencies like the NTIA, DoD, and FCC to ensure the necessary policies were developed and needed technical parameters were met. Now we are ready to go. Integrating ESCs into Initial Commercial Deployments would provide a valuable opportunity for the DoD to gain confidence from live results, enable the FCC to declare victory on pursuing their innovative shared spectrum policy, and allow the industry to benefit from deploying new LTE services on 150 MHz of managed spectrum.
Longer term, we expect to see greater adoption of the shared spectrum model moving forward globally as governments look to new solutions that can maximize the use and application of 5G networks and drive greater innovation and improved services for both businesses and consumers. Because communications infrastructure is vital to emerging technologies and business solutions in the 21st century, and because we’ve done the hard part of developing the needed network and ESC technologies, applying shared spectrum to new bands, whether for LTE or 5G networks, will be streamlined and much easier to deploy moving forward.