Comcast and Huawei to test 3.5 GHz radio this month
Analysts predict private IoT networks and new opportunity for Huawei
The Federal Communications Commission has authorized Huawei to demonstrate a remote radio unit transmitting in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band. The test is for Comcast, and is scheduled to take place between June 15 and June 17 at the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Philadelphia.
Huawei will be using the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, which the FCC opened for commercial use two years ago. Since then, wireless carriers and their equipment suppliers have been working on new radios to leverage this unlicensed spectrum. The CBRS spectrum is seen as a good fit for multi-operator LTE small cells, and for private internet of things networks.
Comcast is not a traditional wireless carrier, although the cable and internet giant has recently launched a wireless service that uses the Verizon network. Comcast leases spectrum from Verizon and sells service to its customers under the Xfinity Mobile brand. But the company’s work with Huawei may have more to do with its smart home ambitions than with its wireless service.
“I see it more as a home play,” said analyst Alex Glaser of Harbor Research. He noted that Comcast provides Wi-Fi routers and wireless gateways to millions of homes, and that Huawei would probably like to be a supplier to the cable powerhouse. Moreover, Comcast is well-positioned to control smart home applications like alarms and security cameras thanks to its acquisition of iControl Networks.
In the long run, Glaser sees CBRS as an enabling technology for “mission-critical B2B networks,” including private IoT networks. He said LTE in the CBRS bands is superior to Wi-Fi for private IoT and LTE networks because CBRS can offer better performance, more security and better management of interference. Glaser added that it often makes sense for enterprises to leverage the same networks for communications and IoT applications.
The FCC was thinking along the same lines when it authorized the CBRS spectrum for commercial use. “We expect to see wide deployment of wireless broadband in industrial applications – advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, etc. – supporting innovation and growth throughout our economy,” the agency stated on its website.
Huawei announced its CBRS radio back in 2015, a clear sign that the Chinese vendor is not giving up on the U.S. market. Wireless carriers in the U.S. stopped buying radio equipment from Huawei in 2012, due to political concerns about the presence of Chinese equipment in U.S. communication networks. But Comcast is not a traditional communications service provider and CBRS is not a macro network technology. Whatever the Philadelphia demo shows about CBRS, it is already showing that Huawei still has opportunity in the U.S.
Author’s Note: Thanks to Steven Crowley for flagging this FCC authorization on Twitter.