RF Connect builds a private CBRS network for COVID healthcare tents

RF Connect built a free wireless network at Memorial Health System Clinic in Springfield, Illinois, for front-line workers who are treating COVID-19 patients in triage tents.

RF Connect, a systems integrator, has deployed a CBRS-enabled OnGo Private LTE network at the Memorial hospital to provide temporary connectivity for doctors and nurses who are delivering emergency patient care during the coronavirus crisis. 

The company worked in collaboration with Accu-Tech, CommScope and Druid Software on the project.

Steve Wimsatt, senior director of business development and alliances with CommScope, said the Springfield hospital's temporary CBRS network is using CommScope’s spectrum access system (SAS). He said the ability to access CBRS spectrum really helped the hospital to quickly set up a triage facility outside of the regular hospital’s walls, without having to drag Ethernet cables to the location. Instead, the wireless connectivity provides a reliable broadband connection, which is accessed through Mi-Fi devices and routers.

“It’s a single-day installation,” said Wimsatt. “At that point the triage tent equipment has full broadband coverage, and the hospital is able to use the same equipment they would use indoors.”

He also said. “If you take a typical high-end enterprise access point, the average coverage is 2,500 square feet. A comparably-sized CBRS access point will cover 10,000 square feet.”

CommScope, along with the other SAS providers — Google, Federated Wireless, Amdocs and Sony — received permission from the FCC for initial commercial deployments of CBRS services in September 2019.

RELATED: FCC approves initial commercial deployments in CBRS

From a practical perspective, Wimsatt said that private wireless networks in the U.S., such as the one established for Memorial Health, are using the general authorized access (GAA) lower tier of the CBRS spectrum. “In this case, you deploy the network and then call the SAS and indicate where you’ve deployed the CBRS access points,” said Wimsatt. “You literally type into the SAS where you’ve put the access point, with the latitude, longitude, and height above average terrain. And then the SAS grants you the spectrum.”

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, RF Connect had been building and deploying kits to demonstrate the wireless connectivity advantages of OnGo private networks. “It was a no-brainer to reallocate those resources to gain real-world field experience and, more importantly, play a role in helping our health care workers deliver patient care,” said Jeff Hipchen, executive vice president at RF Connect, in a statement.