An innovative group of rural carriers is working with Ericsson to deploy CBRS strategically and affordably. For the 14-year-old Rural Independent Network Alliance (RINA), resource sharing is nothing new, but CBRS is. 

RINA is a consortium of 21 regional carriers from across the country, and it is funded by the member carriers that own it collectively. They have been sharing core network resources for years, and when several member carriers acquired CBRS spectrum through the recent government auction, they decided to extend the shared infrastructure model. 

Ericsson’s network managers and domain proxy servers were installed in RINA’s two Utah data centers. The domain proxy servers connect to Google’s Spectrum Access System, which ensures that none of the carrier CBRS radios are transmitting on bands that are needed by incumbent users of the shared spectrum. All of the RINA carriers can share the data center resources, instead of purchasing their own CBRS core network infrastructure.

“We try to be that core element for them so they can focus on the RAN and their customers, and they don't have to worry about the back office core network,” said Dennie Mecham, COO of RINA Wireless. “Our partners can lease core elements from us and focus on their area's RAN so their only capital investment is in their local area's coverage.” 

Mecham said the model can also save carriers money on the radio end, since carriers that cannot afford a domain proxy server often end up buying more expensive radios that work without domain proxy servers. With RINA, they get access to the domain proxy servers and can use the less expensive radios.

The RINA CBRS model is already supporting a carrier in Georgia and a VoLTE model in Alaska. Mecham expects more to go live soon. He said carriers and landline telecom companies are using CBRS to fill in hard-to-reach spots in their networks, as well as for fixed wireless access.

“I don’t know that it’s going to be a replacement frequency for LTE or 5G, but it will be used as an enhancement,” said Mecham.

CBRS is likely to become a primary data connection for some rural customers who don’t live in areas already covered by other wireless networks or DSL. For these people, fixed wireless solutions using CBRS could make internet service readily available for the first time.

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“Our partnership with RINA Wireless provides rural carriers the needed technology solutions to efficiently and effectively manage their networks, deploy services faster and meet buildout requirements,” said Rob Johnson, head of customer unit regional carriers for Ericsson North America. “Ericsson has played an active role in CBRS ecosystem development, and we’re pleased to offer a leading CBRS portfolio to help rural carriers evolve their wireless networks in order to bring connectivity to rural communities.”

Mecham said some member carriers are using CBRS to meet their commitments under ACAM, a federal program that provides monthly payments to carriers when they commit to deploy broadband in hard-to-serve or remote areas. “RINA Wireless enables rural providers to evolve and provide competitive services in the most difficult-to-serve areas of the country,” Mecham said.