Unveiling the Power of Shared Spectrum: Private 5G/LTE vs Wi-Fi

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and its rules for shared use of the 3550-3700 MHz band, also known as the 3.5 GHz band. Since then, we’ve been hearing terms like Private LTE, Private 5G, and Private Cellular. This blog post explores the concept of shared spectrum, its implications, and how it’s reshaping the landscape of wireless connectivity.


Understanding Shared Spectrum

The concept of licensed vs. unlicensed spectrum was common, but what is shared spectrum, and what do we mean by ‘shared’? Licensed spectrum comes with high costs, extensive paperwork, and a lengthy time to market. However, it offers clean, exclusive access with minimal interference, reserved for the entity that owns it. On the other hand, unlicensed spectrum is more accessible, as it doesn’t require licensing or permissions. Still, users must adhere to the regulatory guidelines set by the relevant governing body. We’re all familiar with this in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.


Shared spectrum, as the name implies, is all about sharing. Think of it as a concept akin to teaching your kids to share their toys with others. The FCC introduced three different tiers for sharing:

  1. Incumbents – Reserved for the US Navy.
  2. Priority Access – Available through a paid model.
  3. General Authorized Access – Open for free use.


Central to the idea of sharing spectrum is the Spectrum Access System (SAS), a central system responsible for managing the assignment of available frequencies and transmit power limits to devices. SAS plays a pivotal role in mitigating interference issues, providing more efficient access to the CBRS Spectrum.

General Authorized Access (GAA) licensing adds to the appeal of shared spectrum. GAA comes with no associated costs or cumbersome paperwork, allowing for faster deployments.


Enhancing Private 5G/LTE with Neutral Hosts

In the pursuit of seamless and uninterrupted wireless connectivity, hardware vendors are working on taking on the role of neutral hosts. This approach will add tremendous value to Private 5G/LTE solutions, enabling organizations to extend carrier networks into areas with no coverage. The concept of neutral hosts facilitates improved network coverage and availability.


The Coexistence of Private 5G/LTE and Wi-Fi

One lingering question that often arises is if a Private 5G/LTE network should be deployed instead of Wi-Fi, or do I really need Wi-Fi if I simply get Private 5G/LTE network throughout my organization? I believe a simple answer is, “No”. Private 5G/LTE and Wi-Fi each have distinct use cases and benefits. They are complementary technologies, not replacements for one another. Both have their place in the world of wireless connectivity, serving different purposes as needed.


CBRS vs. Wi-Fi Coverage

When embarking on Private 5G/LTE and CBRS discussions and deployments, several critical factors must be taken into account. Unlike Wi-Fi, this technology cannot be deployed merely by acquiring hardware and installing Private 5G/LTE-capable access points using CBRS frequencies. Vendors specializing in enterprise market deployments have streamlined the configuration and provisioning process. Nevertheless, you must still consider factors such as limited device support, network architecture, integration into your existing network, installation limitations, and the need for certified installers.


Top Use Cases for Private Cellular Networks

Private cellular networks offer a myriad of use cases, catering to industries such as industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, robotics, and surveillance. These networks empower organizations to enhance their operational efficiency, security, and connectivity.


Imperium Data: Your Wireless Solution Partner

At Imperium Data, we specialize in working with organizations to discover and realize the full potential of Private 5G/LTE use cases. We offer demonstrations and proof-of-concept solutions for all your wireless needs. With our knowledge, experience, partnerships, and resources, we are dedicated to making your wireless project a resounding success.


In the dynamic landscape of wireless technology, shared spectrum, Private 5G/LTE, and CBRS are reshaping the way organizations connect and communicate. Embracing these advancements can provide a competitive edge and help your organization stay at the forefront of innovation.

By: Mohammad Ali, CWNE #375 & Solutions Architect

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