CommScope scraps CBRS SAS business, keeps ESC connection with Google

CommScope is getting out of the Spectrum Access System (SAS) administration business, electing to discontinue that Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) service. But it plans to continue operating and managing the Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) network in conjunction with Google as it has been doing.

“Effective May 31, 2022, CommScope will discontinue providing its cloud-based SAS service portfolio. The company has notified customers and will support their transition to other SAS service providers,” the company said in a statement.

The change has no effect on the company’s Comsearch business unit, which will continue to offer a variety of spectrum management and frequency coordination solutions, the company said. CommScope also said it will continue to offer intelligent wireless solutions and services that support the 3.5 GHz CBRS frequency band, such as OneCell small cells and Ruckus access points.

When CommScope was entering the SAS business about five years ago, it was going up against some big names, including the well-established Federated Wireless, which was founded on CBRS. At the time, CommScope, whose name is well known in the wireless infrastructure space, acknowledged that it had its work cut out for itself to get its name recognized in the CBRS field.  

CommScope ended up partnering with Google on the ESC end of the equation. A CommScope spokesman confirmed that relationship will continue.

CommScope in its statement didn’t elaborate on the reason for the SAS exit but said it “recently made a strategic business decision to realign its focus” in the CBRS market.

In some ways, CommScope’s exit from the SAS business isn’t entirely out of left field. Whereas Federated Wireless was founded in 2014 and its entire business pretty much revolves around CBRS, CommScope's been around for decades and it's been diversifying its business.

According to CommScope, its five business segments include Connectivity and Cable Solutions; Access Network Solutions; Networking, Intelligent Cellular and Security Solutions; Outdoor Wireless Networks; and Home Networks.

As Light Reading pointed out, its retreat from the SAS business comes as the company is undergoing an overview of its business and preparing to spin off or sell its Home Networks unit.  

During the company’s most recent earnings conference call, CEO Chuck Treadway said the Home Networks business has had the most exposure to the ongoing disruption in semiconductor supply, and sales declined 18% during the fourth quarter. Shortages of semiconductor chips have been a major constraint on sales volume across CommScope, with the largest impact in Home Networks, Ruckus and active cable product lines within its broadband segment, he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

Earlier this year, Dell’Oro Group said CBRS adoption was tracking significantly below expectations, driven primarily by diverging trends between fixed wireless access (FWA) and non-FWA, including public and private LTE/5G NR. The firm said LTE will drive most of the investments over the near term, with 5G NR-based CBRS capex dominating by 2026.