Google excited to see CBRS ‘alive and kicking’

Characterizing Google and CommScope as somehow lagging in the deployment of their Spectrum Access System (SAS) and Environmental Sensing Capabilities (ESC) systems isn’t accurate, according to representatives from the companies.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday announced that five SAS administrators—Amdocs, CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google and Sony—are approved to begin their initial commercial deployments (ICD) in the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) space. That’s a big achievement for the CBRS ecosystem, meaning they’re now entering the commercial phase after years of development.

“We’re all together at the same place,” said Mark Gibson, director of business development at Comsearch, a CommScope company. All of the SASs are doing pretty much the same thing, he said. They’re cloud-based and FCC compliant, and they all had to pass the same tests to get to this point.

That said, CommScope may have taken a different approach in that it’s a little more conservative on the ICD, deploying in targeted situations rather than nationwide, according to Gibson.

RELATED: FCC approves initial commercial deployments in CBRS

Federated Wireless, another prominent player in the SAS and ESC space, earlier this year said that based on public statements made in the CBRS space, it believes it has the lead, calling its ESC network a world first in terms of production-ready systems. Contacted on Monday, Federated said via a spokesperson that it stands by its statements about its leadership.

RELATED: Google’s Preston Marshall on company’s 3.5 GHz CBRS SAS system: ‘We’re probably the furthest along’

Mat Varghese, senior product manager at Google, said he doesn’t agree with the assessment that Federated is ahead of the pack. “I think we’re all ready at the same time,” he told FierceWireless. “We’re very excited about having our customers get going on CBRS” and they’re also excited about Federated Wireless’ customers going live because that means CBRS is “alive and kicking,” going from concept to reality with multiple SAS players in the industry—“and that’s something we’ve always wanted to see, a healthy ecosystem.”

Google and CommScope each developed their own SAS, but last year they announced they were combining their resources to develop the ESC capabilities. The ESC network will be deployed by the end of this year but they’re not saying what percentage of the network is done. It’s got enough deployed for the ICD, Gibson said. The sensor network is being deployed along the nation’s coast lines to protect federal radar users, but there’s a vast amount of space in between the coasts where that’s not necessary for CBRS to get deployed.  

Federated Wireless has said it has more than 20 customers lined up. CommScope announced last year that AT&T is a SAS customer, a big coup for the company.

Google isn’t disclosing how many customers it has in the queue for CBRS, but it has a presence with customers in 39 states, according to Varghese. Both Federated and Google count Verizon among their clients.  

One of the main differences at CommScope is it has the SAS and ESC parts covered, but it also has the Ruckus CBRS product line; other parts of the company also provide bits and pieces. “We can probably put together with a few exceptions the whole ecosystem,” including the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), Gibson said. “We’re working on providing a unified end-to-end offering, but we’re also flexible that we can work with anybody.”  

Not just about SAS

Developing a SAS is a big endeavor itself, but Varghese said it’s about more than that. Google started exploring shared spectrum models years ago and contributed to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) study that many say marked the true start of exploring this unique spectrum sharing model. Google’s interest is in making sure its customers get a great internet experience to use its products to their fullest, and it’s been a long-time advocate of shared spectrum.

Google’s Preston Marshall, a longtime proponent of spectrum sharing in the 3.5 GHz band, wrote a book on the subject, and Google has been involved in the CBRS space for a long time, including at the WinnForum. “We’re very excited to see it come from 2012 to here with the start of ICD announced,” Varghese said. “It’s a pretty big moment for us.”

Now Google offers a host of related products, from cloud to geospatial insights, Certified Professional Installer training and network planning, because it believes the CBRS ecosystem needs all these things to thrive.

If all goes as planned, it’s quite possible that a similar sharing model will be adopted for other spectrum bands.

“In general, we think this is a great model for making spectrum available for commercial use,” Varghese said. “We think this is an approach that can be applied to many other bands” and seeing it succeed and be healthy bodes well for spectrum sharing in general, not just in the U.S. but across the world.