Amdocs reveals why it got into the SAS business

One of the players in Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) that hasn’t been making a lot of noise about its role as a Spectrum Access System (SAS) provider—until now—is Amdocs, which once was known for its wireless billing services but has since dug deeper into the network domain.

The company doubled down on efforts in the Radio Access Network (RAN), and grew its expertise in the software arena, thanks in large part to acquisitions. The most recent transaction was the $50 million purchase of privately owned TTS Wireless, a provider of mobile network engineering services whose clients include the likes of AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. TTS specializes in network optimization, planning and software-enabled solutions—the kinds of things Amdocs is looking to supply in the CBRS field.

Over the years, Amdocs has built a significant business where it uses software automation for network design, planning, integration and optimization, according to Yogen Patel, head of Solutions Marketing at Amdocs Open Network.

Just last month, Amdocs announced that it will provide satellite operator SES with its Network Function Virtualization (NFV) solution to modernize and automate network platforms in the cloud, in an open, software-centric way. At the same time, Amdocs said it was expanding a strategic agreement with Microsoft to help service providers modernize and automate, building on an existing agreement to enable ONAP on Microsoft Azure. 

“We have deep expertise and experience in network rollout,” and when you think about the SAS domain, it was a natural extension to some extent, Patel told FierceWireless. It’s an area where software smarts are needed to do spectrum allocation, and if you consider some of the players entering the market to use shared spectrum, many of them are going to need the types of services that Amdocs offers.

“It’s an extension of what we do, but also an opportunity to have an insertion point” into a new community that is centered on shared spectrum, he said. “We think we’ve got a larger play than just being a SAS administrator.”

Amdocs has its work cut out for itself. Federated Wireless boasts about its leadership in the CBRS field, and CommScope already gained AT&T as a customer last year. Google is in there as well, touting its CBRS network management products.

RELATED: Google excited to see CBRS ‘alive and kicking’

Meanwhile, Amdocs emphasizes its history in wireless and its expertise in the RAN and overall network planning and management. The company collaborated with AT&T on ECOMP, which was handed over to the open source community a couple years ago. Amdocs also is a big contributor to O-RAN and other open source initiatives, including the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

Amdocs has a technology partner it is working with on the Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) part of the CBRS system, but Patel declined to name the partner. Amdocs has no plans to develop its own ESC network because there’s already enough providers doing that, he said. The ESC comes into play along the coasts, particularly around areas like San Diego where there are a lot of Navy ships and radar that needs to be protected.  

Part of the reason Amdocs wasn’t doing a lot of CBRS outreach until now is it wanted to pass the Initial Commercial Deployment (ICD) phase, which happened with the FCC’s notice on September 16.

Amdocs isn’t saying how many customers it has lined up, but it’s “quite far along,” Patel said. Non-traditional entities looking to use CBRS include utilities and municipalities, both of which are the kinds of potential customers with which Amdocs is holding talks, among others.

RELATED: FCC approves initial commercial deployments in CBRS

It’s not that Amdocs doesn’t expect to make money as a SAS provider, but it’s got bigger designs in the CBRS ecosystem. “We see it as an opportunity to be able to position our broader portfolio, services and capabilities,” he said, describing it as a way to democratize radio access and bring in new players who need expertise to design, plan and optimize their deployments. “It’s the bigger puzzle that we see as the larger opportunity.”