Enterprises benefit the most when their CBRS network architecture originates from a single vendor
Although Victor Frankenstein’s monster is a revered scientific achievement, that doesn’t mean a “Frankenstein” approach to problems is always the best solution. When it comes to CBRS solutions for Private Cellular Networks (PCNs), if pieces and parts are jerry-rigged together from a variety of sources, users put cost, functionality, and system management at risk.
To avoid frustration and failure during the establishment of a Private 5G or LTE network, enterprises should enter their private network solution conversations with a basic understanding of CBRS network architecture and the benefits of obtaining each network component from a single source.
What is CBRS?
CBRS is a 150 MHz band of shared spectrum operating between 3.5-3.7 GHz. Access to this spectrum band — also known as Band 48 — is prioritized for three types of users:
- Incumbent users such as fixed satellite stations and the U.S. Navy.
- Priority Access Licensees (PAL) such as Internet service providers and private organizations.
- General Authorized Access (GAA) or unlicensed users who can access the CBRS spectrum for free but do not have priority over PAL or incumbent users.
As a PAL, enterprise businesses have priority access to Band 48 over GAA users and can use their personal stake in the CBRS spectrum to build their Private LTE or 5G networks.
CBRS network architecture: What goes in to building a PCN?
With access to an express lane for wireless connectivity, PALs are eager to establish new CBRS use cases across their organization, but to do so they must have each critical piece of a CBRS solution in place. Let’s explore those key components.
The cellular core — also known as the evolved packet core — is the brain of the Private 5G or LTE network. This is where policies are set to determine which devices can access the network and how traffic can move throughout the network.
Cellular access points
The cellular access point (CAP) — also known as the RAN or small cell — is used to provide access to the network for edge devices such as laptops, IoT sensors, surveillance cameras, tablets, and more. The CAP works the same way a Wi-Fi access point is used to connect your television, printer, smartphone, etc. to an in-home network. By placing CAPs in various strategic locations across their work sites, companies can build a reliable, high-performing, secure wireless LAN.
Endpoints and private SIMs
A SIM card — whether physical or electronic — is required for authentication to CBRS-based Private 5G or LTE before connected devices such as cameras, IoT sensors, and more can join the network. Organizations with a large number of SIM-based endpoints will benefit from SIM management services that enable IT teams to manage, monitor, and modify SIM cards from the same cloud-based system they use to manage their routers.
Creating a cohesive CBRS solution
With a few zipties and some elbow grease, the hood of a pickup truck might work in place of a missing hood on a sedan, but it’s likely an impermanent solution — a replacement from the original manufacturer is a much safer bet. Similarly, an ideal CBRS solution is built using components that come from a single vendor vs. taking a “Frankenstein” approach.
When a wireless network solution including SIM cards, CAPs, and a cellular core originate from the same place, organizations unlock additional benefits such as:
- Orchestration of all components is handled within a single cloud-based management platform vs. a swivel-chair approach with a variety of systems that may or may not communicate well with one another.
- Contracts and agreements are made with one vendor vs. multiple vendors whose restrictions, requirements, and fine print may vary from one to the other.
- There’s a single point of contact for customer service and training.
- Radio frequency (RF) and Spectrum Access System (SAS) planning are typically included. These two key components of development can become very costly when managed through a separate consultant.
Finally, because CBRS is a form of shared spectrum, finding the right partner with expertise in establishing successful CBRS solutions helps organizations gain insight into the access levels of other users in the area, ensuring their access is not competing with incumbent users or other PALs.