Federated Wireless sees security as biggest challenge in CBRS

SAN FRANCISCO—A small part of the $42 million financing round that Federated Wireless just announced will go toward rolling out the sensors that will make sure federal government incumbents are protected.

Included in the Spectrum Controller that Federated is making available is a component known as the Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) Network, a nationwide redundant network of sensors that identify and protect the federal agencies already using the 3.5 GHz band to make sure defense and government communications aren’t impacted by commercial users.

Most of the sensors are being positioned on rooftops along the nation's coastline—the entire coastline—with a line-of-sight to the coast so they can listen for radar, according to Rajeev Shah, vice president of product management at Federated Wireless. “All we are doing is sensing,” he told FierceWirelessTech, with the addition of algorithms that help detect the waveforms that determine where radar activity is happening.

The Navy doesn’t reveal where its radar is located, so CBRS has to rely on technology to “sense” it.

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While the hardware and the deployment part of the actual network sound like the tricky part, “we think it is not the trickiest part,” he said. “The real challenge, if you might, is to ensure the highest level of security,” so the Department of Defense (DOD) is very comfortable with the arrangement and, of course, the country’s mission-critical assets are protected. That's part of the reason Federated doesn't share photos of its sensors; it doesn't want to take the security risk.

“That’s the real challenging part, and that’s an ongoing investment for us,” he said on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress Americas. And as the DOD might potentially do newer things in the radar, “we have to keep up in our R&D.”  

Ensuring the highest level of security is priority No. 1, he said. “It introduces a set of challenges that I think we have some unique skill sets” to help address.

To do what CBRS is enabling, you need to essentially do a nationwide RF propagation map every minute, and the big breakthrough from a technology perspective is how to take all of those, from compute intensive propagation models, and use cloud technologies and models to scale them with cost efficiency. “I think that’s the breakthrough for us,” he said. “It’s what we’ve invested in the last three years to make that happen.”

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Late last year, Federated Wireless and Alphabet’s Access team announced they had demonstrated interoperability between their Spectrum Access System (SAS). Both Google and Federated have worked on CBRS standards and protocols with other members of the Wireless Innovation Forum, known as WinnForum.

RELATED: Federated Wireless, Alphabet's Access hit milestone ahead of 3.5 GHz sharing

While the FCC is considering CBRS rule changes primarily directed at the Priority Access License portion of the band, the end of the first quarter or early second quarter of 2018 could see General Authorized Access deployments.

The fixed wireless companies probably will be first. “We see a lot of pent-up demand there,” he said. A lot of them are in rural areas, but also in areas that are outside suburbs but not quite rural.