Federated Wireless Q&A: ’10 Gbps over Wi-Fi 6 or 5G – that’s the opportunity at 6GHz’
The decision last week by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make 1,200MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band in the US available for unlicensed usage, covering low-power operations over the full allocation and standard-power devices in 850MHz of the band, is a boon for suppliers of private networking equipment and, they contend, for industry at large.
Private network pioneer Federated Wireless has reworked the math, and said the new availability of 850MHz for standard-power devices, plus the existing 150MHz allocation in the CBRS band (at 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz), sets a path to ‘1,000 MHz of spectrum’ for private and shared industrial LTE and 5G.
Federated Wireless announced $13.7 million in additional Series C funding last week from existing investors Allied Minds and Pennant Investors. The funding will accelerate its partnership with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure to offer ‘one-click’ private and shared connectivity-as-a-service in CBRS spectrum.
But it will go on repopulating the 6 GHz band with enterprises running their own wireless networks as well. The company has extended its own automated frequency controller (AFC) tool ‘(Spectrum Controller’) in trials to enable sharing in the band, allowing delivery of both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G services.
Federated Wireless said early last month it had 35 customers and 2,000-odd cell sites in the CBRS band, with 40 private LTE networks in deployment and 100 more “in the pipeline”, with new cell sites lighting up at a rate of about 100 per day.
Enterprise IoT Insights caught up with Kurt Schaubach, chief technology officer at Federated Wireless, last week ahead of the FCC decision to discuss the vision for the company, as well as for industrial organisations taking up the option of dedicated spectrum for private networking. Here is a replay of the conversation.
How will the money expand Federated’s partnerships with AWS and Azure?
“The investment is designed to have an impact on our connectivity-as-a-service offering, including our partnerships with AWS and Microsoft Azure. With AWS and Azure specifically, we have several early deployments underway and are seeing the demand for more automation across market segments – logistics, warehousing, retail – in both the public and private sectors. Industrial IoT is a first mover in this space and we’re working with both Amazon and Microsoft to offer IoT bundles that combine their IoT solutions with our connectivity service.”
Where will the money go?
“Federated Wireless continues to invest to support R&D and to expand now in order to benefit customers over time. The money will go toward continued development and support of our Spectrum Controller (SAS/ESC/AFC) platform, and continued enablement for our connectivity-as-a-service platform, partnerships and deployments. It will allow us to seed the pipeline and grow our partner network in the private wireless managed 4G/5G service sector where we see the biggest need and opportunity.”
What is the opportunity with the 6GHz band?
“The 6 GHz band opens up 1200 MHz of spectrum for Wi-Fi 6 and 5G use. We call it the ‘path to 1000 MHz for private wireless’ because the draft FCC rules set aside 850 MHz of the band for lightly managed shared use with an AFC, like our Spectrum Controller. Added to the 150 MHz in CBRS, we see a real opportunity for managed shared spectrum to deliver interference-free connectivity for private wireless services.”
What is the opportunity to combine Wi-Fi 6 and 5G at 6 GHz?
“This is exactly the opportunity that we see – the ability to offer 10 Gbps service over either Wi-Fi 6 or 5G, depending on the specific service need, while still protecting the incumbents who use the band today. This is enabled by the AFC, which is now built into our Spectrum Controller. This is especially relevant to mission-critical IoT applications like security and critical communications that require reliable, high-speed connectivity and are not subject to interference.”
What will the interest be at 6 GHz from telecoms companies, and how much of their interest will be to extend their offers into private networks for enterprises?
“We are having these discussions with our telco customers today. As we can see from their interest in CBRS, they are looking at all forms of mid-band spectrum they can use to offer services to enterprises, including private wireless and IoT services. Most are in support of applying a light-touch sharing scheme like the AFC to ensure that spectrum resources are utilised to their maximum capacity.”
What will the interest be at 6GHz from enterprises in industrial spaces – in manufacturing, logistics, oil and gas, utilities, mining, and so forth?
“There are millions of buildings across these vertical segments that do not have good indoor wireless coverage today and these segments are looking for simple, low-cost, high-speed connectivity solutions that will be addressed by both 3.5 GHz and 6 GHz. There is a pent-up demand for services. Several of our early connectivity-as-a-service deployments are in the industrial IoT space, including manufacturing automation with robotics, warehouse logistics and security with bar code scanning and cameras and communications with push-to-talk.”
What about enterprises in the consumer space – in stadiums, malls, hotels, theme parks, and other venues?
“The answer is the same as above. In addition, we are seeing a need for point-of-sale applications and digital signage for everything from advertising to managing the flow of people and traffic in large public spaces.”
Will the money go into international expansion – to offer the Federated model and expertise in other markets?
“We continue to look at opportunities for offering our shared spectrum technology and expertise to solve the spectrum scarcity issue across the globe. We have been chosen by the DCMS in the UK to partner with Cisco on a shared spectrum project for 5G rural connectivity. Our offices of the CTO and Legal Advocacy meet often with Ofcom and other global regulators to further this work. As in the US, we are seeing many of these initiatives tied to government programs for smart cities and now we are seeing IoT-enabled smart healthcare come to the forefront.”