Federated Wireless on 2021: CBRS-based 5G takes hold – as Wi-Fi 6 is ‘dead on arrival’
The race to make 5G a viable platform for Industry 4.0 has shifted up a gear with the availability of shared CBRS spectrum for private wireless networks, and private 5G will continue to gain momentum in 2021 as enterprises focus on streamlining and automating their operations.
Nevertheless, true at-scale production deployments will remain limited as the ecosystem builds to maturity over the course of the year. Limiting factors have been the cost and complexity of 5G, as well as the lack of end-user devices, including embedded 5G-based IoT sensors.
All of these are crucial to the private wireless networks, and therefore to industrial IoT. They are now being addressed with new chipsets, open technology architecture, and simplified deployment models. Shared spectrum is accelerating the transition with its reliability, performance, speed and security.
In 2021, we will see continuing adoption of private 5G networks, especially in the manufacturing and logistics industries, which depend heavily on IoT connectivity. There is also a lot of momentum from forward-leaning Federal 5G projects, like ‘5G to Next G’, which was announced by the US Department of Defense (DoD) at the end of 2020.
In ways, the DoD is like the first enterprise – often leading the way with innovation. All of this will result in expanded market growth and many more successful deployments in 2022.
Tech watchers should keep certain things in mind in 2021. For starters, 5G will achieve 80-90 percent population coverage this year, with 20-30 percent population coverage enabled by coverage from CBRS licenses. Private 5G networks will hit the peak of (inflated) expectations in 2021, with limited investment from enterprise. The market will grow in 2022 and hit a plateau of productivity in 2023.
But CBRS-based private networks will find a firm foothold in manufacturing and logistics in the US, driven by DoD and government spending, and the need to modernize and automate. Wi-Fi 6 will be dead on arrival, offering little differentiation from the current state, and much less functionality than 5G.
The reality is that Wi-Fi 6 doesn’t offer much new capability – it’s an incremental improvement over Wi-Fi today, but not a big differentiator . It is certainly not a good option for underpinning IoT.
The new administration in the US will accelerate proliferation of shared spectrum, improving the mix of general authorized access (GAA) and priority access licenses (PAL) and making spectrum more readily available and affordable to fuel private networks for IoT implementations.
CBRS-based Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) networks will continue to dominate shared spectrum governance in 2021, while Incumbent-Informing Capability (IIC) approaches are in development over the next several years.
The framework developed for CBRS is a testament to how sharing technologies can be used to support varied applications in a single band, provide the foundation for IoT, while balancing the needs of Federal users, incumbents, new licensed users, and unlicensed users.
IoT is ripe for development this year. Its promise of providing an affordable foundation to enable businesses to modernize and automate their operations couldn’t come at a better time as many businesses are needing to digitize their operations just to stay afloat.
Dynamic spectrum sharing technologies will represent the future of spectrum management. Spectrum sharing will help to facilitate US leadership in 5G and is crucial to the successful implementation of a sustainable national spectrum strategy and one that leads to advances in productivity and modernization of operations.