Phone Plans

The Ultimate Guide to CBRS Private LTE

By
Sara Nuss
March 17, 2023

Companies are turning to the private spectrum with increased regularity, taking the availability of CBRS and using it to create their own networks. 

Image courtesy of Digi.

The PAL access tier of CBRS is currently very expensive and only really available to big corporations who can purchase bits of the band in auction, but the GAA tier opens up the possibility for businesses to use the CBRS band without a big upfront cost. Private spectrum allows companies to take advantage of 5G CBRS, perhaps earlier than major networks will be able to get it up and running across the country. 5G CBRS solutions are available on a smaller scale for companies that want to make the most of the huge increase in speed of the next generation of wireless connectivity. 

CBRS Private LTE

What is a private cellular network, and how does it apply to you? CBRS private LTE, and other private LTE networks, use small cells (analogous to WiFi access points) to spread a small network around that area. This, in essence, creates a small scale cellular network. Let’s look into CBRS private LTE versus some of the other options on the board. 

CBRS Private LTE Versus Public LTE

What’s the benefit of using private LTE versus public LTE? Public LTE encompasses the entire United States and we rely on it every day. Their networks are incredibly robust and have monumental amounts of signal strength, so why build another network in your office building or warehouse? Sometimes the public LTE availability is not enough. 

Public LTE and other wireless networks are limited by various factors. If a business runs up against capacity for the network it means all of their network-based processes function at less capacity. Sometimes it results in less productivity and other times it really hurts the systems in place. That’s when CBRS private LTE networks come in. They let the company optimize the network to their needs and their needs alone. 

CBRS Private LTE WiFi 

These two products, though providing the same service, approach that service very differently. CBRS LTE networks use radio wave frequencies to provide coverage to a large area with a steady signal. One major difference between these two options is that coverage. WiFi routers are optimized to create a small coverage area, so larger facilities using WiFi need a lot of access points in order to cover the entire facility. WiFi is best used in home-sized areas. CBRS private LTE provides better performance, reliability, and integration than WiFi. CBRS services can provide an overabundance of speed, however, making it overkill for the operation. CBRS private LTE is the best choice for businesses that need: 

  • Lightning-fast connections that constantly transmit data
  • Operational control over the network for precise device integration
  • Easily scalable networks providing access to a controllable list of devices anywhere in the states

What is Private LTE?

Private LTE is a network that’s run internally in an organization. Many organizations across all departments deploy private LTE networks to better communication within the many branches of the organization. These networks are closed to the public. Only authorized users, usually employees and other workers, are allowed on the network. The organization controls private LTE networks, responsible for creating the infrastructure and deploying devices to provide the coverage and bandwidth the company needs to operate. 

Since the organization creates private LTE, it is often in contrast to public LTE (wireless companies) that create networks open to anyone who pays a fee for their service. Opening the CBRS band allows companies to create CBRS private LTE networks for faster communication than ever before. 

Companies use private LTE to receive data speeds, technical flexibility, signal prioritization, and security to run an optimized network for their business. These networks provide utility and adaptability for businesses to create the exact infrastructure they need rather than using a pre-built network and choosing from the limited options available on the market companies that use private LTE also allow for easy upgrades to the network whenever necessary. 

How does CBRS Private LTE Work? 

CBRS, the new radio spectrum allocated for private use in the United States, is available for organizations to purchase and use at their leisure. These are the early days of CBRS, and it allows businesses to build better infrastructure and build better applications. CBRS private LTE lets businesses create networks and use 4G and 5G technologies to better their workflow. There are three tiers of CBRS usage, which we will explain in greater detail later in this article. 

The code behind the continued running of the CBRS spectrum requires a tremendous database and content monitoring. 

What Industries use CBRS Private LTE? 

There are a ton of industries that take advantage of CBRS private LTE technology to optimize their operational environment. CBRS is evolving into a technology that is used like any other data transmission technology. When moving to a new form of communication, CBRS is a solid choice for a subset of businesses who want that security and speed for their enterprise. The business operates on either CBRS on the GAA tier or the PAL tier and can use a CBRS private network or a combination of multiple kinds of networks. Let’s look at a few industries that use CBRS private LTE in 2023. 

College Campuses

CBRS private LTE connects classrooms and campuses in new and innovative ways. Higher education uses this high-speed large-coverage system to operate research facilities and provide strong connections in outdoor spaces without having to install lots of access points. In outdoor spaces especially, the infrastructure required to set up robust WiFi networks is much more than that to set up CBRS private LTE networks. Outdoor spaces with strong connections make it much easier for students to connect to the network while its extended range allows campus facilities like smart meters, lights, and security cameras to connect to the internet of things

Healthcare

CBRS private LTE provides a great boon in the healthcare world. Healthcare networks can deliver reliable communications between healthcare staff, ensuring speedy transmission of data all throughout the network. Smart machines on the internet of things allow for inventory tracking, smart staff devices, and increased connectivity allow for faster and smoother workflow. A large reliable network ensures connection everywhere in the medical campus. These private networks ensure a strong signal which is crucial for medical devices. 

Alongside the strength and speed of CBRS private LTE networks the added privacy is an additional boon for the healthcare industry. 

Manufacturing

Breakdowns in the assembly line of a manufacturing plant causes tremendous problems and economic loss for the company. Production facilities are designed to maximize the efficiency of their product creation and that optimization is limited by the speed of the network. Latency exists within any network. CBRS cuts down on network latency, allowing for faster production and faster systems to enter the factory floor. 

Installing the infrastructure for a CBRS private LTE network is easily done across a variety of footprints. As access points cover a much larger area fewer access points are required to install the infrastructure. 

Citizens Broadband Radio Service

A private spectrum, the CBRS band, recently opened up for enterprise use in the United States. The FCC made the CBRS band (3.7 to 3.9 GHz) available in three tiers in 2016, and that decision opened up a ton of opportunity for businesses of all sizes and in all fields within the country. This new service created a new way for companies and corporations to communicate using 4G LTE and 5G on their private networks. 

All that new spectrum necessitates a regulatory hand lest interference rear its ugly head. The FCC and the SAS handle regulation of the CBRS private LTE spectrum in order to minimize risk of interference. All CBRS devices are authorized and documented into large databases and are only allowed to broadcast in acceptable locations. There is a tier system that indicates which users are able to broadcast in which areas. CBRS Private LTE falls in the Priority Access Licence (PAL) tier or the General Authorized Access (GAA) tier. 

The Three Tiers of the CBRS Spectrum 

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service is driving the change to CBRS private LTE. There are three tiers of users on the spectrum, divided into a list of priority. Whenever a higher tier is using the spectrum in a given area, lower tier users are taken off the network. 

  • Incumbents are VIP users and have access to the entirety of the frequency band. They are protected against interference from the other tiers and have access to the frequency band at all times.
  • Priority Access Licenses are given out in auction and these licenses give the corporation a slice of the spectrum up to 3.6 GHz. Licenses are given out in three-year increments. The bidders on this tier are most often big service providers or other big companies, as the licenses are very expensive. 
  • The General Authorized Access tier is meant for the general public. Users have access to their specific frequency, but their usage is overridden if either of the other tiers is using that same frequency in their general area. 

All of these tiers are overseen by the SAS, which is a regulatory database that ensures that there is no interference across different users and different tiers. For any device to connect to the CBRS spectrum, it first has to register itself with the SAS. 

How does CBRS work in the United States?

CBRS in the United States lets people host shared and private networks. CBRS private LTE is a kind of CBRS network often used by corporations and wireless networks. Major wireless companies are using CBRS solutions to bolster their 4G LTE networks while they transition to 5G, but that is a much larger undertaking than implementing a 5G CBRS solution for a company. Many companies are in the position of deciding whether they should use Wi-Fi for communications, a major wireless network, or CBRS. All of the options have advantages and disadvantages, but lately, CBRS has grown greatly in popularity amongst all sectors of corporations. 

For now, lots of companies are sticking with what they were using before CBRS gained popularity due to the cost of implementing the new system. The use of CBRS private LTE, however, has permeated just about every industry as a way for excellent communication. Using CBRS private LTE enhances the speed at which devices can communicate with one another, opening up opportunities for innovation at every stage of the process. CBRS technology presents a cost-effective way for companies to create and maintain the infrastructure necessary to host communication between all of their devices. 

Because the lowest tier of CBRS can be accessed by anyone, there are a lot of companies with a small geographic footprint that use the service. These companies only need service in a small area, so their devices access the CBRS band in that county as long as there are no higher-tier communications passing through. 

The advantages of using CBRS private LTE create a strong workplace for everyone in the business. 

Advantages of Using CBRS Private LTE

Reliability

The CBRS spectrum offers a new bandwidth for users. The three-tiered system ensures a lack of interference along the network. If a business is on the lowest tier, the GAA tier, any signals coming into their county from higher tiers cuts off their service. If the business has a PAL license they secure a bandwidth and county or bandwidths and counties where they have priority over all the GAA users. Incumbents operate mostly on the coast, so the network is extremely reliable for PAL users. 

WiFi lacks the scalability of a CBRS private LTE network, so businesses that need a stronger, more reliable network can turn to CBRS, where they operate on a completely separate radio spectrum. These systems also allow for backup networks on WiFi or public LTE in case of emergency. Even if a higher-tier CBRS user blocks the area for a time, critical systems remain operational. 

Privacy

Encryption grows more and more important as networks grow more complex. The common encryption software comes through SIM cards that are within devices. Private LTE, which requires devices to receive authorization before they are allowed on the network, allows for an additional layer of security within the network. 

Capacity

The aforementioned scalability of CBRS private LTE lets companies enjoy increased capacity than any other communications medium. Every CBRS access point holds more devices than access points of other communications networks. Whenever wireless networks are unable to keep up with the necessary speeds of the organization, well, systems fail. Private LTE deployment has already shown itself to handle high volume of device connection and network use. 

Quality of Service

Quality of Service policies grow more commanding and are necessary to ensure that other services do not interfere with their operations. CBRS private LTE offers more control and adaptability over resource sharing on the network. This is especially common in logistics operations where there is a high level of automation within the factory or warehouse. In that case, any malfunction or latency spike causes serious damage. A Quality of Service policy lets administration control the amount of latency every device receives so data transmission is reliable on the network. 

Mobility

Perhaps the greatest boon of CBRS private LTE is the extended range of the network. A constant and reliable speed extends throughout the entire area so devices can move quickly from one end to the other with no risk of poor service. 

CBRS technology allows for seamless transitions between access points, so a completely covered area lets devices move between the entire network with no danger of losing connection. 

Cost

Deploying CBRS private LTE networks is a cost-effective way to deploy a strong wireless network compared to the alternatives. Cellular hardware is currently more expensive than the alternative, but less access point hardware is required to cover the area, which increases overall savings. ‍

Key Takeaways — CBRS Private LTE

CBRS private LTE networks are an excellent option for businesses looking to capitalize on increased connectivity and reliability in their networks. We expect CBRS-based networks to increase in popularity in the future. There are a wide variety of applications and services available to businesses looking to purchase and deploy CBRS private LTE networks for a new compound. CBRS is not perfect, but there are cases where it provides more benefits than WiFi networks and more benefits than using a public LTE service.

Sara Nuss
Sara Nuss is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in wireless, dewi, phone plan advice & blockchain.
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