Google courts WISPs with tailored CBRS solutions

Given that the country’s wireless internet service providers (WISPs) already use the upper part of the 3.5 GHz band—namely the 3.65 GHz lightly licensed spectrum—it stands to reason that they’re likely to be among the first to use the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) 3.5 GHz band.

That’s why Google is presenting at the WISPAmerica conference in Cincinnati this week, where Mathew Varghese, senior product manager of wireless services at Google, is outlining some of the initiatives that Google has developed specifically for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) providers.

“We’re working to make it really easy for WISPs to get up and running with CBRS,” he told FierceWirelessTech. “We think they’re going to be one of the first movers in the CBRS industry.”

Historically, WISPs have been very resourceful in using unlicensed spectrum and the licensed spectrum in the top part of the CBRS band, but they’re all hungry for more spectrum and that’s where CBRS comes into play. However, there have been concerns about high recurring costs and uncertainties about how CBRS will work—concerns that Google hopes to allay.

RELATED: Google, CommScope get official OK for CBRS Environmental Sensing Capability system

Google is in a good position to help WISPs because it is undergoing the necessary steps to serve as a Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrator. It’s been working with CommScope to put it all together with the Environmental Sensing Capabilities (ESC) that will work in tandem in order to “sense” incumbent users and give them priority.

Recognizing that WISPs’ revenue comes largely from the residences it serves, Google is pricing its SAS service specifically for Fixed Wireless Access at $2.25 per residence per month. “We’re trying to simplify it,” he said. (It’s not yet announcing pricing for mobility, private LTE, IoT or other services, so stay tuned on that front.)

To help facilitate CBRS deployments, Google also is offering a set of training and certification programs around CBRS device installation. 

Most CBRS devices, called CBSDs, need to be installed by a Certified Professional Installer (CPI). Google's CPI certification package (pending Training Program Administrator approval) includes everything needed to become a CPI and begin installing devices. The $599 offering includes online training via Coursera, an online proctored exam, digital certificate issuance and registration with WinnForum. 

For those who are interested in learning more about CBSD installation but don’t require certification, the online CBRS training can be taken on a standalone basis for $399.   

Google also announced partnerships with key manufacturers like Airspan, Baicells, Cambium and Telrad. If an end customer is already using equipment from one of these manufacturers, it can work with the equipment supplier to get access to Google’s SAS. Alternatively, Google will work directly with clients if they aren’t using one of these suppliers.

On the network planning front, Google is introducing a network planning tool that will be available via a web browser. It’s designed to take some of the guesswork out of network planning, enabling its users to figure out where there’s a good signal and where the signal isn't so good.

Both SAS and ESC certifications are happening simultaneously and it isn’t clear which one will be fulfilled first, but the current expectation is that commercial CBRS operations may begin in the June time frame. That all depends on the speed of testing by the government, of course.

Several handsets on the market now will support the CBRS band, including the Google Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy S10, and “we can really feel the momentum around CBRS increasing,” Varghese said.