Is CBRS the Future of Private Wireless Networks?

Understanding Its Potential and Benefits

By Rajeev Gandhi, Head of Technology, Telco Network Engineering

Cellular data must be safeguarded as it traverses numerous broadband channels. CBRS private 5G networks and private LTE networks are ideal solutions for businesses that need their own flexible, secure, cost-effective wireless network.

Rajeev Gandhi, Head of Technology, Telco Network Engineering

Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) has become a popular topic lately, especially with the introduction of 5G and a wider range of network technologies. CBRS for private LTE networks is gaining much traction, particularly when public LTE and Wi-Fi aren’t ideal for a given business, industry, or situation. A few examples are the medical, political, and financial sectors that manage extremely sensitive data, as well as industrial use cases with distant or limited access points, like underground.

According to this article on, “In the next five years, private networks will become a 60 billion USD industry as the new era opens up multiple opportunities for service providers deployed on diverse applications serving different use cases.”


What is CBRS?

In the United States, CBRS is the 150 MHz wide broadcast band of the 3.5 GHz band (3550 MHz to 3700 MHz). In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocated the CBRS region of radio frequency (RF) spectrum from 3.55GHz to 3.7GHz for these three categories of users:

Although the FCC first offered the CBRS band in 2012, it has gained traction recently, especially with cellular and cable providers, because it is an ideal complement to the mid-band 5G spectrum inventory.

CBRS spectrum has traditionally been reserved for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which utilizes it for customers like the U.S. Navy’s offshore ship-borne radar activities. The Navy and similar customers will continue to take advantage of priority access to the CBFS band as existing licensees. While highly sensitive customers, like the DoD, will be safeguarded from interference, the FCC has permitted the sharing of unused spectrum in the band.


Hybrid CBRS spectrum is now available

The CBRS band's licensing is not exclusive, nor is it a fully unlicensed spectrum. Instead, the FCC took a hybrid approach to the spectrum, combining licensed and unlicensed elements in a new sharing system. In this model, the FCC allows businesses to use CBRS to construct their own private 4G and 5G networks, resulting in enhanced offerings from wireless telecom service providers.

While CBRS spectrum will help U.S. cellular carriers better manage network traffic, it can also create new market opportunities as neutral-host providers, cable and internet vendors, and businesses with sensitive data needs decide to create and manage their own wireless networks, traffic, and devices.


Priority of CBRS users

Tier 1 users will consist of incumbent government and satellite users, like the DoD and the Navy. Additionally, broadband wireless subscribers using CBRS before 2020 will also be grandfathered into tier 1.

Tier 2 priority access licenses (PAL) will have access to 70 MHz of the total 150 MHz available through a competitive bidding process.

Finally, users with general authorized access (GAA) can use 80 MHz of spectrum in every market, as well as the 70 MHz of PAL spectrum when not in use by PAL licensees.

It’s worth noting that the FCC is allowing some qualified bidders, such as small enterprises or rural carriers, to use bidding credits to acquire the CBRS spectrum.


CBRS for private networks

Many businesses are creating CBRS private networks to provide wireless coverage in regions where public networks do not exist or where wireless coverage is crucial to an organization’s success. CBRS private networks are also ideal for companies that generate significant volumes of data and have unique uplink or downlink needs.

Meanwhile, some organizations want more control over resource allocation and traffic prioritization. Factories, warehouses, and power plants, airports, stadiums, and hospitals are a few examples of CBRS private network use cases.

CBRS private networks can manage vast numbers of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as autonomous cars, drones, robots, and sensors, along with the flood of data they create. The key to designing a CBRS private network for an IoT use case is specialized devices and equipment that improve device and data capacity and also provide built-in controls that public networks lack.


Benefits of a CBRS private network

When compared to public LTE or Wi-Fi, a private wireless network offers many advantages, such as a dedicated LTE network in an uncluttered band, along with these additional benefits:


Maintaining an LTE or 5G CBRS private network

Companies considering a private wireless network will need:


CBRS network architecture

CBRS private networks use citizen broadband radio service devices (CBSDs) in base stations, and a spectrum access system (SAS) authorizes and controls whether the CBSDs can access the spectrum. PAL and GAA users must register CBSDs with the SAS and provide identifying information, such as operator ID, device parameters, and location. If used in the United States, CBSDs must also be certified and authorized by the FCC.

For large commercial CBRS private network deployments, we recommend controlling all CBSD devices by the new network element, "domain proxy (DP)," in conjunction with NMS or EMS functions. The DP is a two-way information processor router that allows administrators to control and optimize the network to eliminate interference. The SAS also plays a critical role in managing potential interfering environments, establishing protection criteria and exclusion zones to safeguard higher-priority spectrum users, and enhancing CBSD power levels within the stipulated timeframe.


Considering a CBRS private wireless network?

For some businesses, wireless communications have become the "fourth utility," a resource as important as electricity, water, and internet access. Cellular data must be safeguarded as it traverses numerous broadband channels. CBRS private 5G networks and private LTE networks are ideal solutions for businesses that need their own flexible, secure, cost-effective wireless network. Our telecommunications experts are available to talk to you about your specific needs. Please visit us at