Boingo deploys trial CBRS network at Dallas Love Field Airport

Boingo Wireless has successfully deployed a private LTE network on the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band at Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL) in a trial that’s likely to be replicated at other venues.

The launch marks the first known CBRS deployment at a major U.S. airport. About 20 people in the airport’s IT department are using the network.

“We’re excited about it because we’re seeing great use of it,” said Boingo CTO Derek Peterson in an interview with FierceWirelessTech.

Boingo worked with Federated Wireless on the Spectrum Access System (SAS) part of the trial and Ruckus Wireless supplied the CBRS devices, or CBRDs. The FCC granted Boingo Special Temporary Authority (STA) in March so it could conduct the trial at DAL.

The 3.5 GHz band is unique in the U.S. in that it’s a three-pronged system that protects incumbent government users but frees up spectrum for licensed and unlicensed users. The FCC is still considering rule revisions, but a lot of work continues behind the scenes to prepare the band for commercial deployments.

In the case of DAL, the IT department is using dongles and phones that support the CBRS band, including phones from Essential. There are also Samsung Galaxy S9 handsets that support CBRS. But devices are expected to be relatively easy to get because 3.5 GHz spectrum is supported via licensed services in other countries like Japan.

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One of the unique things that Boingo did at DAL was deploy a virtual EPC, so the core is provided via a commercial off-the-shelf box at the venue. Typically, trials to date were using cores provided by wireless operators, but in this case, that was not necessary.

The DAL deployment currently isn’t supporting the nation’s major mobile carriers, although plans call for expanding to accommodate roaming with any or all of the carriers. That outreach is happening now to add additional use cases, according to Peterson. It’s similar to how Boingo launched Passpoint first in Chicago on an internal basis and then widened the deployment.

Boingo actually did an internal CBRS deployment in its Los Angeles offices and that’s been up more than a year. Expectations call for future CBRS deployments at stadiums or other airports where needed to support certain use cases. Large public venues are strong candidates for CBRS deployments because the band offers favorable mid-band spectrum for seamless and secure connectivity in dense, high-trafficked areas and is considered more cost effective than traditional LTE that uses licensed spectrum.