Ruckus: 3.5 GHz LTE will give cable leverage in wireless roaming deals

David Wright, Ruckus Wireless

PHILADELPHIA – David Wright, head of standards and strategy at Ruckus Wireless, sees the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) as an opportunity for cable companies to build out limited LTE networks that can be leveraged in roaming deals with mobile operators.

During a panel today at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, Wright detailed the path ahead for the 150 MHz of coordinated shared spectrum soon available at 3.5 GHz. In terms of the opportunity for cable operators, he said indoor LTE coverage is in demand and, if cable operators can build LTE networks in buildings, it can serve as a bargaining chip with mobile operators.

“You’re no longer an MVNO. You’re coming in with an LTE network,” said Wright, adding that mobile operators need indoor coverage, as advances like LEED certified construction essentially knock out cellular coverage, and that they could be willing to offer outdoor roaming agreements as a means of getting it.

Of course, both Comcast and Charter has indicated plans to leverage an MVNO deal with Verizon as part of their upcoming wireless plans. Comcast intends to augment its wireless coverage with its Wi-Fi footprint while Charter hasn’t ruled out the possibility of using small cells on home and in the outdoor cable plant.

But Wright said the opportunities within CBRS provide another path forward for MSOs looking at wireless, because it will allow them to participate in 4G and even 5G networks without the need for licensed spectrum.

“This is open G, because anybody can play,” said Wright.

He also detailed other benefits of CBRS, calling it ideal for indoor LTE small cells, saying it requires no professional installation, and claiming that “if you control the building, you control the spectrum.” He also pointed out that the spectrum is already defined with Bands 42 and 43, making it easier for vendors and manufacturers to build for the service.

CBRS has a three-tiered sharing approach for its spectrum. Incumbent users like the U.S. military will take precedence over other traffic. Priority Access Licenses will grant temporary spectrum licenses via an auction. And then the General Access layer will offer up what’s left, which will be controlled and allocated by Spectrum Access System (SAS) provider.

Wright said he expects the FCC will authorize the GAA tier by mid-2017, and then 18-24 months after that, PAL will be implemented.

“It’s a historic shift in how we allocate spectrum,” said Wright.