A top Verizon executive confirmed to Light Reading the operator is preparing to use the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band to improve the capacity and speeds on its LTE network. But he said that's just the first step in Verizon's embrace of the CBRS band.
Adam Koeppe, Verizon's SVP of technology, strategy, architecture and planning for both its wireless and wireline networks, said the operator is among the companies planning initial commercial deployments (ICDs) in the CBRS band. The FCC just today gave the greenlight for such ICDs. Koeppe said Verizon will use the spectrum to improve the speeds available through transmissions in its other, licensed spectrum bands.
Verizon will do so by essentially tying together transmissions in the unlicensed CBRS band with transmissions in its other, licensed spectrum bands. The operator is already employing this kind of strategy with Licence Assisted Access (LAA) technology and the unlicensed 5GHz band, which it is deploying in various urban, high-traffic areas.
Koeppe said Verizon is working with Spectrum Access System (SAS) vendors Google and Federated Wireless on its initial CBRS deployments. The SAS is a key part of the sharing scenario developed for the CBRS band that will prevent interference between commercial users and the US Navy. Koeppe is scheduled to speak Wednesday at a launch event for initial CBRS operations under the "OnGo" brand.
Koeppe also offered some insights into how the role of CBRS might evolve in Verizon's network in the future. He said the spectrum band could be coupled with 5G and edge computing in private wireless networks for enterprises. Perhaps more importantly, he suggested those networks could be built and operated by the enterprises themselves, and then subsequently connected into Verizon's network. That would allow Amazon for example to build an LTE network in unlicensed CBRS spectrum in its warehouses, and then for Verizon customers to roam onto that network when they're in range. That kind of network development would represent a major departure from the way wireless networks are deployed today, which often involve wireless network operators playing a direct role in the construction of the network so they can be assured that it meets their requirements.
"It's possible that that model may emerge," Koeppe said, noting that Verizon would have to ensure such private networks meet its standards before connecting then to its core operations.
But Koeppe said the combination of private networks with 5G, CBRS spectrum and mobile edge computing (MEC) would create a "very compelling story" for enterprise customers. An edge computing component would allow an enterprise to process its data locally in order to avoid data transport costs, while 5G could power a range of high-speed wireless connections.
However, several pieces of that offering aren't yet in place: Koeppe said there aren't yet specifications to deploy 5G in CBRS spectrum, and Verizon's edge computing platform isn't scheduled to be released until later this year. "More to come," promised Koeppe, who reports to company CTO Kyle Malady.
Verizon of course isn't the only player in the wireless industry that is eyeing the potential of private wireless networks. Indeed, Nokia's CEO predicted the private wireless opportunity could ultimately be twice the size of the commercial wireless industry.