Recently, the University of New Mexico, Wazco LLC, and Celona demonstrated a new deployment of Citizen Band Radio Service or CBRS-powered Private Mobile Network at UNM’s main campus in Albuquerque.
CBRS is an enterprise-grade wireless broadband network that is economically feasible. It’s also available as a service, so businesses can pay a predictable monthly fee. CBRS is used at thousands of Freeway Call Boxes, including in California, in parks like New York’s Central Park, and at transportation locations like train stations and light rail stations.
CBRS is a band (Band 48) of radio frequency spectrum from 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz for specific users, including incumbent users such as the Navy, priority access license holders (private users) and general or unlicensed authorized users. Originally, this band was reserved for the use of the American Department of Defense, in particular for the radar systems of the US Navy.
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) called the 3.5 GHz band an “innovation band” to be opened up to new mobile users. Since then, the “Innovation Band” has evolved into what is now known as CBRS. CBRS opens up a major opportunity for unlicensed users and businesses that want to use 5G, LTE or even 3GPP spectrum to establish their own private mobile networks.
The three fundamental components to deploying an outdoor wireless network with private cellular are AC/DC power, the wired link to the corporate IP network, and a physical location to install the radio infrastructure. However, it is often difficult to find all three components/services in one place or the ability to bring these services to one site as needed.
Since late 2020, Wazco LLC has been developing a “rapidly deployable, factory-assembled, concealed 4G LTE base station” and was interested in finding out what UNM thought of the concept – and where and how it could be deployed on a the college campus.
UNM’s associate director of information technology, Mark Reynolds, Brian White, director of systems engineering at Celona, and Mike Nasco of Wazco LLC worked on a design to present the project to the UNM as a small proof-of-concept project to discover innovative ways to implement these three building blocks of a college or university.
The idea was to install CBRS on various structures around the UNM campus, including Code Blue emergency call boxes. UNM has 140 phone booths on campus, and some were already equipped with Verizon 5G LTE small cell technology. Reynolds suggested some sites on the UNM campus where CBRS capability could be demonstrated. However, there is no need to remove and replace existing Wi-Fi networks to integrate CBRS.
A site adjacent to the IT department building on the main UNM campus on the Code Blue light pole and/or platform was selected. These two options were side by side and 300-400 feet (line of sight) from the IT data center offices. The “proof of concept” was evaluated via a live demonstration at UNM’s main campus in Albuquerque.
A factory-built set consisting of a 4G LTE CBRS base station cover-up chassis, transportable Evolved Packet Core (EPC)/SAS, and network management server/switch/routers was used for the demonstration. This transportable network-in-a-box solution was ready to deploy and offered a much less sophisticated demonstration and beta test of the concept than on a Blue Light emergency call box in Orange County.
UNM provided installation assistance through access to a boom lift platform and two-man support staff. The NMU staff, having never installed the CBRS 4G LTE base station, would facilitate the installation of the outside equipment. Interior installation was performed by Wazco personnel. The installation was quick and uneventful.
The University installation was broken down with the Code Blue pole: analog face plate, power supply to the pole, modified for a powerful extension at the top of the pole for radio transmitter connectivity, pod to lift the radio into place and ladder to direct the radio transmitter to the computer building.
The indoor and outdoor demonstrations were successful.
“With CBRS frequency, radio headend, backhaul and IP connectivity, we were able to showcase the use of a ‘private LTE’ connection both outside and inside a facility,” said Reynolds. . “CBRS interfaces like USB adapters were used with laptops to showcase this design and proof of concept.”
Plans for Phase 2 include the integration of a campus lamppost, installed with a Wazco pole-mounted base station and the “Smart City features” that Labyrinth is making available to cities across the United States.
The next POC UNM is scheduled for March 2022 at the same location but with a streetlight only and the use of a CCTV camera, access point, backhaul and using CBRS frequencies.
“The advantage of a private network is that you control the connections and it’s highly secure,” Reynolds said. “The downside is the overhead to maintain and sustain – so more time and assessments are needed to determine if this has a place in the higher education market. Cities are already implementing CBRS as a as technologies, so over time, healthcare and educational institutions will follow.