Federated seeks to smooth the path to CBRS private networks
Federated Wireless is taking aim at making it easy for enterprises to adopt private networks that leverage the Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum, by making its new CBRS-based end-to-end managed service available through both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure Marketplace.
Iyad Tarazi, CEO of Federated Wireless, said that the new offerings will “fundamentally change the way that U.S. enterprises procure, deploy and manage private wireless networks” by making connectivity-as-a-service something that can be ordered with a single click, integrated with the marketplaces of companies on which enterprise IT departments and networks likely already depend in some fashion.
Federated said that the service offering “was developed with specific attention to the needs of today’s cloud-native enterprises, who have come to depend on seamless integration between their own IT departments and global public clouds.” Many IT organizations see either AWS and/or Azure as “a natural extension of their existing environments,” Federated said in its releases, with Tarazi adding that “enterprise customers are well-familiar with cloud marketplaces, and can now directly leverage our extensive partner program and application ecosystem for an end-to-end private wireless service.”
With Federated one of the leading enablers of CBRS networks, having deployed dozens of them for businesses of various sizes and with around 50 more in the works, Tarazi said that his company has seen firsthand that businesses have a need for private 4G and even 5G networks. But, he added, “we have seen the marketplace really struggle to come up with a simple solution.”
“It’s been very difficult for most people to enable CBRS for enterprise,” Tarazi reiterated. “It requires a lot more simplicity.”
In the current model, he went on, a customer may call and ask about the possibility of a private network, and the initial response is education: a run-down on spectrum basics, the role of the Evolved Packet Core, and everything else it will take to get their private network up and running. Tarazi added that private, carrier-grade networks “have historically required a great deal of carrier wireless technology, large numbers of components and vendors, complex processes for integration with other networks and significant capital expenditures.”
In contrast, he said, the new connectivity-as-a-service offering, “is the simplest private network solution you can think of. We want to make sure that it works well for enterprise.”
Tarazi also said that businesses aren’t necessarily looking to replace their employees’ Wi-Fi network with private cellular networks. He said that they are most often seeking a “simple connectivity solution” likely to be used to support internet of things applications: to network high-definition security cameras or digital signage, for instance, or to provide a dedicated network for robotics on a factory or warehouse floor.
In the case of AWS, customers can adopt 4G/5G private networks, Federated said in its release, with one-click provisioning and integration with IoT applications provided through the AWS Partner Network. Yousef Khalidi, corporate VP for Azure Networking at Microsoft, said that the combination of the connectivity-as-a-service from Federated and Azure’s cloud delivery “gives enterprises the flexibility and scale they need to deploy any application, to any cloud, in any combination of environments. The increasing complexity of hybrid and multi-cloud IT strategies requires that the underlying infrastructure, and especially the wireless connectivity that brings them all together, be reliable.”
Chris DePuy, technology analyst for 650 Group, said in a statement that “CBRS is uniquely positioned to provide a bridge to carrier-grade enterprise 5G services, and Federated Wireless and its partners are now
prepared to deliver that as a managed service.”
After that “one-click” order through its new cloud partners, Federated will deliver, install and manage the network (it has its own network operations center) and facilitates end-point management, with five-9s service level agreements and cloud scale via its partners. That level of service delivery starts to sound very much like a network operator. Does Federated consider itself a carrier? “Our intention is not to be a carrier,” Tarazi responded, but instead to white-label the solution for its partners—some of whom are likely to be carriers, tower companies or other Federated partners who want to enable private network use cases for their own enterprise customers.
Asked about the possibility whether Federated would participate in the upcoming Priority Access License auction in June, Tarazi responded, “We have no plans to get into buying our own spectrum. We’re trying really hard to continue to be neutral in this business, to enable our partners—and we don’t want to bid against them.”
Tarazi added that most businesses who want a private network won’t need a PAL, and those that do are likely to be able to get what they need through the PAL secondary market, post-auction. Federated, he added, is fielding a lot of requests from companies trying to figure out if they should participate in the PAL auction and worrying about the potential cost of investing in spectrum, and providing data and modeling on spectrum scarcity in specific locations while stopping short of giving actual auction advice.
Tarazi said that he sees three factors coming together to make the CBRS private network business opportunity increasingly clear: the value of the large amount of CBRS spectrum capacity available to enterprises, which they can access with a low barrier to entry; the “vast investment into IoT solutions” that have been developed by companies such as its cloud partners and others; and the power of automation, both in terms of the cloud-based automation tools that AWS and Azure provide to businesses, and in the sense of enterprises needing a highly deterministic, dedicated internal network to support what they want to do with robots, cameras and other automated devices.
In related news, Federated was also recently announced as one of a number of tech and wireless companies which will take part in a massive new effort by the U.K.’s government to fund the development of 5G and private network applications for rural and industrial uses. Federated is part of a £5 million project called 5G New Thinking, which will look at provision of wireless connectivity using shared spectrum and local spectrum licensing options announced by Ofcom in July 2019. The project will work to create facilities and tools for spectrum sharing and monitoring, neutral hosting, partnerships and enterprise engagement models with operators.