Canadian cableco Cogeco tests fixed wireless access on CBRS spectrum

Cogeco Communications is a cable company serving subscribers in Quebec and Ontario, Canada. And its sister company Cogeco Connexion serves customers in 11 states along the East Coast of the United States under the Atlantic Broadband name. In total, Cogeco serves about 1.8 million subscribers with broadband, video and/or telephony.

The company recently conducted a fixed wireless access (FWA) test in Quebec, using 3.5 GHz spectrum. It worked with an LTE small cell from Accelleran together with a DOCSIS 3.1 modem and other gear from Lindsay Broadband. The solution is designed for LTE deployments over hybrid fiber coax (HFC) networks with DOCSIS backhaul.

In the United States, the FCC is conducting an auction of 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum. And in Canada, the Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) agency is doing something similar, planning a 3.5 GHz spectrum auction for June 15, 2021.

Although it is the same frequency band, 3.5 GHz spectrum in Canada is different from CBRS in the United States in that the spectrum licenses will be exclusive. There won’t be any dynamic spectrum sharing. In Canada, some existing users will retain their licenses.

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David Atman, president of Lindsay Broadband, said that his company “has received the required certification” from (ISED) for use of its equipment on CBRS spectrum in Canada.

For the small cell trial with Cogeco, the Accelleran and Lindsay Broadband equipment was strand-mounted on Cogeco’s aerial cable plant. “These were hanging on the strand between utility poles on HFC cables,” said Atman.

RELATED:  Charter, Comcast could deploy strand-mounted wireless small cells

Fixed Wireless Access

In April, Cogeco purchased iTéract, a small Quebec service provider that uses a combination of fixed wireless access and fiber-to-the-home technologies. As part of that transaction, Cogeco acquired 15 exclusive 3.5 GHz spectrum licenses as well as five wireless Broadband Services (WBS) licenses that cover a large region of rural Southern Quebec.

In an email to FierceWireless, a Cogeco spokesperson said, “iTéract's acquisition reinforces Cogeco's intention to enter the wireless market.  Moreover, iTéract’s network, spectrum licenses and expertise are complementary assets in our strategy to extend our regional and rural internet coverage. The trial with Lindsay Broadband has been deployed in the context of a multi-vendor field trial and is a way for Cogeco to test new innovative ways of delivering wireless solutions.”

To date, FWA has mainly been used in rural areas where it’s too expensive to reach homes with fiber. But now, FWA is seeing more interest in some urban markets thanks to Verizon’s 5G Home service.

Cable and wireless

Recently, Mariam Sorond, chief research and development officer at CableLabs, indicated that quite a few cable companies are pursuing opportunities in wireless.

Sorond said MSO’s have existing infrastructure to form the basis of new wireless networks, including their HFC connections as well as their headends for data-center-like functions such as compute and storage. “They have the most foundation for a distributed architecture to provide a wireless and mobile network in a cost-effective way,” said Sorond. “The MSOs have a great foundation. Spectrum could be surgically attained.”

RELATED: Intel, CableLabs view network virtualization from different angles: Special Report

Cogeco is a member of CableLabs.

Marie Ginette Lepage, VP of wireless solutions and innovation at Cogeco, said in a statement. “We are always looking for ways to increase our geographic reach and expansion into new telecommunication market segments. This exercise, done with Lindsay Broadband and Accelleran, is another step on our path toward entering the wireless market.”