Verizon Leverages CBRS for Low-Cost DAS

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1Q 2017 | IN-4506

Verizon asked its DAS system suppliers to integrate SpiderCloud small cells with their DAS as a way to reduce the cost of DAS systems and permit economical deployments in the middle enterprise or “middleprise” segment of the DAS market. Verizon also announced its intention to deploy small cells using the 3.5 GHz band in accordance with CBRS technology. We connect the dots between these two statements and believe we are witnessing the beginning of CBRS as the new DAS.

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SpiderCloud and DAS Vendors Become Friendly


According to recent reports, Verizon, which is among the largest purchasers and operators of DAS systems in the U.S., asked its DAS system suppliers, including Advanced RF Technologies, CommScope, Corning, JMA Wireless, and SOLiD Technologies, to integrate SpiderCloud small cells with their DAS systems. In a second report, the company declared its intention of deploying CBRS small cells wherever practical. While the terms of these arrangements have not been disclosed, we connect the dots by noting that SpiderCloud was among the first small cell suppliers on the market with a dual mode LTE/CBRS small cell. Other first movers early to market include Nokia, which announced CBRS support in its Flexi Zone small cell portfolio, Ruckus (now a division of ARRIS), announced its CBRS-based OpenG technology, and Accelleran also announced its E1012 small cell. Verizon’s arrangement with SpiderCloud is likely not exclusive, and we believe that we are on the verge of CBRS rollouts at Verizon, along with the other mobile network operators (MNOs) and multiple system operators (MSOs) that are members of the CBRS Alliance. This includes some of the largest MNOs in North America such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, Charter Communications, and Comcast.

The DAS Middleprise Problem


DAS systems are effective at distributing RF coverage and capacity inside buildings and venues, and have been installed in many large venues such as stadiums, transportation hubs, and urban venues throughout the U.S. and elsewhere. However, DAS is costly to purchase and install, requiring in-building transport that is usually fiber for modern systems and expensive macro basestations typically located in a “telco closet” within the building. The real estate, air conditioning and cooling, maintenance, and operational requirements of these systems mean that DAS is really only suitable or economical for the largest installations, and these are classed as those greater than 500,000 sq ft. Many DAS vendors are working on systems to tackle this problem, including SOLiD Technologies with its recently announced GENESIS platform, and Zinwave with its Small Cell Point of Interface.

For the middleprise or 100,000 to 500,000 sq ft size of deployments, of which there are many more buildings and represent a large untapped in-building wireless market, small cells can be used. However, this type of system can also rapidly get expensive since typical small cells are single-operator and must be duplicated for each operator requiring coverage within the building. Several small cell vendors are developing neutral-host small cells to overcome this disadvantage, and these include SpiderCloud with its dual mode LTE/CBRS small cell, ip.access with its SUMO platform, Parallel Wireless with its indoor vRAN solution, and CommScope with its OneCell system.

Now that CBRS has been conditionally approved by the FCC and Spectrum Access System (SAS) operators, Federated Wireless and, Alphabet/Google affiliate, Access Technologies have completed SAS to SAS interoperability testing; therefore, we can envision the rise of private LTE networks within buildings. With purchasing a license to use the spectrum as simple as purchasing a cloud-based subscription to an online service, these systems promise to be easy to deploy and set up, and allow for a neutral-host multi-operator operation.

By asking its DAS vendors to integrate with SpiderCloud, Verizon will quickly ramp up the number of in-building deployments in the middleprise, as we believe the cost of a SpiderCloud in-building network is much less than a traditional DAS. By using the SpiderCloud LTE/CBRS dual-mode small cell, Verizon will find itself with a pre-installed installed base of CBRS ready small cells in preparation for the arrival of CBRS-enabled handsets. We expect that the SAS providers will be fully-certified by the FCC in 2H 2017, with first CBRS deployments not until sometime in 2018.

Yes—CBRS Is the New DAS!


In the previously published ABI Research Insight, “Is CBRS the New DAS?”, we outlined CBRS and asked ourselves, is it truly the new DAS? Thanks to Verizon, we believe that we have the answer. We also believe CBRS has the potential to disrupt the DAS market with its costs and deployment economics significantly lower than DAS and on par with Wi-Fi, and also unlike Wi-Fi, CBRS will not be subject to congestion.

Given that the in-building market is shifting to the middleprise market with floor areas ranging from 100,000 sq ft to 500 sq ft, then an RF distribution architecture, which requires no specialist RF engineering knowledge for installation, will be popular. An enterprise, campus, or venue will use its pre-existing staff to deploy the network much like Wi-Fi is deployed today. CBRS may even achieve scale in non-telco use cases such as standalone private LTE networks supporting IoT in factories and refineries for example.