Google Puts a Price on CBRS SAS: $2.25/Month Per Home

Google today stepped forward to put a price tag on its SAS product for the 3.5GHz CBRS market: $2.25 per month per household, at least in a fixed wireless setting.

At WISPAmerica in Cincinnati, a trade show for wireless Internet service providers, the search giant also released a handful of other products geared toward the fixed wireless market, including a network planning tool and a CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) installer certification program.

Taken together, the announcements signal Google's interest in not only forming the rules around the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band but also in making money from the sale of services to providers using that spectrum.

Google isn't the only company selling products and services for the nascent but potentially explosive CBRS market. The CBRS Alliance today also announced that it is starting work on technical specifications that will allow providers to deploy 5G NR services in the 3.5GHz band -- a move that will undoubtedly create more interest in the spectrum. But Google's move to put a price tag on its Spectrum Access System (SAS) database stands out above much of the the noise in the space because SAS pricing so far has remained a major unanswered question in the CBRS market.

"Ultimately we want abundant wireless services for everyone," Mathew Varghese, senior product manager of wireless services at Google, said.

Varghese explained that Google's SAS pricing of $2.25 per month per household only applies to the market for fixed wireless services. Google may impose other pricing scenarios for other providers that deploy other services in the CBRS band, such as private wireless networks or IoT offerings. Varghese said the fixed wireless market -- wherein providers beam Internet connections to homes and offices over a wireless link -- is particularly sensitive to pricing, as most providers' margins are narrow. So, Google hopes to juice the space with what Varghese described as affordable pricing for the SAS element of a fixed wireless offering. He added that Google's pricing covers both the fixed wireless tower and the receiver at a customer's location.

(Because commercial CBRS users will be sharing the band with the US Navy, every 3.5GHz service deployment will need to use a SAS that can make sure commercial services in the band won't interfere with US Navy operations.)

When questioned on the topic by Light Reading, other SAS providers either did not respond to questions about pricing or did not provide specific pricing information. Federated Wireless, for example, said it does not publish specific pricing for its SAS because the product is bundled into network equipment from the likes of Motorola, Cambium or Telrad. And Amdocs replied with a 400-word statement on the topic alongside a 13-page report on the CBRS space, but did not provide any specific pricing for its SAS in the fixed wireless market or any other market.

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Unsurprisingly, Google's Varghese argued that it's important for SAS vendors in the CBRS sector to remain "transparent and open."

In a presentation at the WISPAmerica event, Varghese also said the company would offer two other products for the CBRS fixed wireless market in addition to its SAS database. He said the company will sell a network planning tool that will draw from Google's extensive geospatial database that providers can use to determine exactly how far their signal will reach depending on where and how high they build their towers. Separately, Google will also offer an online Certified Professional Installer (CPI) training program for CBRS devices; technicians who install CBRS systems must have a certification to connect that system to a SAS. Varghese declined to provide pricing information for the network planning tool but said the full training program will cost $599.

Most CBRS players expect initial commercial launches to begin in the May timeframe, and wide scale commercial launches to follow roughly three months after that.

The CBRS space has generated a significant amount of interest not only because of its novel approach to sharing spectrum between commercial and government users but also because 3.5GHz spectrum toes an ideal line between coverage and capacity. Further, a number of countries around the world are also deploying fixed and mobile services in 3.5GHz spectrum, potentially leading to cost savings through economies of scale.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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