A former AT&T Wireless executive is putting his expertise in wireless networking to use as CEO of Geoverse, a private LTE and 5G networking company that operates as a neutral host carrier. Rod Nelson, formerly the CTO of AT&T Wireless, said that Geoverse is different from other companies that offer private LTE services because it owns 600MHz and 700MHz spectrum licenses in 14 states that it can combine with CBRS General Authorized Access (GAA) licenses. The company is also planning to participate in the upcoming CBRS Priority Access Licenses (PAL) spectrum auction that begins July 23.
Geoverse is a subsidiary of ATN International, which is a public company that operates telecom systems across Latin America, the Caribbean and the US. ATN owns Commnet Wireless and provides wholesale wireless services in rural areas to big network operators. Because of its mix of assets, Nelson likes to describe Geoverse as a cellular operating company. "We may be the nation's largest neutral host operator," Nelson said, adding that the company provides roaming to Tier 1 operators.
Geoverse was formed in 2017 to take advantage of the 600MHz and 700MHz spectrum assets and the CBRS GAA licenses. Nelson said he believes the release of CBRS spectrum creates an opportunity for a major disruption in the wireless ecosystem.
This combination of licensed and unlicensed spectrum means that Geoverse can provide both wide area coverage and spot capacity. Nelson explained that Geoverse can provide private network offerings at either a factory site or main corporate headquarters as well as interconnections to other wireless networks.
The company is working with different vertical segments and Nelson said that some are moving faster into private networking than others. He said that industries such as logistics and transportation, manufacturing, oil and gas and healthcare are a good fit for Geoverse's technology because they need wireless network capability but want something that is reliable, secure and performs better than Wi-Fi.
One company that is taking advantage of Geoverse's technology is Strata Worldwide. Strata delivers critical wireless communications to mining operations. Strata said that lowband spectrum like 600MHz and 700MHz combined with CBRS spectrum is key for its mining customers because they are usually in remote locations but need a reliable service that can connect users, devices and even automated mining equipment.
But Strata Worldwide isn't alone. Geoverse's technology is also being used by 7 Cedars Casino in Washington State. 7 Cedars Casino built a 3.5GHz CBRS private network for its customers, and that network can interconnect with Verizon or AT&T or any other US wireless operator through roaming agreements.
Geoverse knows that the private LTE networking space is getting crowded with competitors. Traditional mobile network operators are interested in working with enterprises in this area but Nelson said that Geoverse could be a valuable partner to network operators as a neutral host provider. "The vast majority of businesses are too small for carriers to focus on. We are benefiting them more than competing with them," he said.
But there are other neutral host vendors like Boingo Wireless or ExteNet Systems. ExteNet works as a neutral host with many CBRS deployments. Nelson also pointed to DAS system integrators as possible competitors and even big infrastructure companies like Nokia, which has recently emphasized its interest in private LTE networks.
But Nelson admits that it's still early days in the CBRS spectrum area and a big part of Geoverse's job involves educating enterprises on the spectrum and how the technology can benefit their companies.
"The education is ongoing. But we definitely see an appetite for this type of network," Nelson said.
— Sue Marek, special to Light Reading. Follow her @suemarek.