Wytec aims to upend MVNO industry with CBRS small cells

A small firm based in San Antonio, Texas, wants to upend the MVNO industry in the U.S. so that cable operators are able to compete on par with mobile carriers. That means removing excess costs with which cable operators currently contend.

Wytec International, with 11 employees, says it’s ramping up to bring 5G mobile wireless services to cable operators. CEO William Gray said Wytec owns patented small cell technology that will pave the way for this to happen using Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) 3.5 GHz spectrum.

The company received a patent for its Light-Pole Node (LPN-16) back in 2017 and since then, it’s been testing the features in a neutral host type of setting using utility poles. In conjunction with its LPN-16 technology, Wytec says its MVNO solution includes carrier roaming agreements that would allow cable subscribers access to a worldwide mobile network.

Gray told FierceWireless that the company is in talks with one of the largest cable companies in the U.S., but he could not reveal its identity.

According to Wytec, the primary difference between its small cell architecture and that of the carriers’ current small cell deployments is Wytec’s “universal citywide neutral host” deployment approach, which allows for multiple carriers to transmit from one unit (LPN-16). With Wytec’s multiple carrier approach, other carriers are able to realize substantial savings in transmission cost. The company is currently under trials in Columbus, Ohio, to validate its cost savings assumptions.

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Wytec is a member of the CBRS Alliance. Wytec received approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for temporary use of the 3.5 GHz spectrum to complete its technical trials. In September, it signed an agreement with Google as its SAS provider for on-boarding its initial commercial deployment (ICD) of Wytec’s 5G citywide services. 

“We’re kind of the neutral player,” Gray said. Wytec is still constructing the unique MVNO agreement with lawyers, and it’s in talks with individual operators. Whether T-Mobile and Sprint end up merging will not matter, according to Gray, even though the proposed transaction would eliminate Sprint as an MVNO partner.

In addition, it's talking about collaborating with the likes of Boingo Wireless, which is also in the neutral host business. In fact, Gray said his business will require collaboration with multiple entities, including cities, pole owners and backhaul providers.

"Our initial network deployment originates from one of the top ten Tier One providers in the U.S. and will expand accordingly in support of multiple MVNO cable operators throughout the U.S.,” said Wytec President and CTO Robert Merola in a statement. “We are excited to provide 5G services to the cable industry."

As wireless operators position themselves to better compete for cable customers in 5G, the cable companies continue to play in wireless in various ways. Comcast and Charter Communications, for example, have been using Verizon’s network as part of their MVNO offerings. They're also working in the CBRS space.

Charter, in particular, has participated heavily in FCC spectrum proceedings such as the C-band, CBRS and 6 GHz, among others.  

Wytec said it's nearing completion of the multi-test trial in the central business district of Columbus, Ohio, in preparation of securing its first MVNO agreement to prospective cable operators in early March of 2020.

The company has been funding its LPN-16 R&D through private Regulation D 506c PPM Offerings to accredited investors and subsequently filed an SEC S-1 registration in preparation for listing its shares on a public market.