SDR Technology Helps WISPs Extend Connectivity in COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sakid Ahmed

The FCC is moving at unprecedented speed to help provide communications in response to COVID-19. They recently granted Special Temporary Authority (STA) to allow the use of 45 MHz of precious spectrum to fixed wireless service providers to deliver telehealth, distance learning and enable remote working in rural areas in the U.S.A. This is a temporary grant of 45 MHz of 5.9 GHz spectrum to dozens of Wireless ISP (WISP) operators that submitted an emergency STA request.

According to the FCC statement, “The FCC has granted temporary authority to a number of wireless companies to use additional spectrum in order to ensure that they are able to meet their customers’ needs. It granted Special Temporary Authority to allow 33 wireless Internet service providers in rural communities as well as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, and others to use additional spectrum to help meet increased customer demand for broadband during the coronavirus pandemic.”

This is good news for the people who live and work in the geography covered by those service areas as well as the operators struggling with congested spectrum. While this authorization is limited to a 60-day time period, the good news for operators is that their ePMP and PMP 450 fixed wireless broadband equipment was easily upgraded to operate in this spectrum immediately upon approval via a software upgrade, without requiring the time and cost of installing new equipment. If your spectrum looked anything like the image below, an additional 45 MHz may do wonders to the performance you are achieving and to customer satisfaction under current circumstances.

As this approval is temporary in nature and will most likely be removed after the COVID-19 pandemic has been conquered, the fact that the ePMP and PMP 450 equipment will be adjusted again via software will again save time and money.

The FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge demonstrates the industry’s united commitment to providing communications services during the pandemic. According to the site, “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges that many Americans will face in the coming months, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently announced the Keep Americans Connected Initiative. In order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances, he specifically asked broadband and telephone service providers, and trade associations, to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. So far, more than 700 companies and associations have signed the Chairman’s pledge to Keep Americans Connected.”

Cambium Networks believes that networks should be reliable and easy to operate while doing so in an efficient manner. Because our fixed wireless technology platforms are designed with a Software-defined Radio (SDR) technology as a foundation, in cases where the hardware is capable of performing in a given frequency block, our solutions are able to be upgraded to address small incremental changes such as these. In the most recent example, when the FCC recently opened up Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum, the PMP 450 platform was able to accommodate that greenfield spectrum with a software change. The FCC established this band in 2015 and created a three-tiered approach to sharing the spectrum among federal and non-federal users of the band. CBRS is the 3.5 GHz band, more specifically 3550 to 3700 MHz. This is a first-of-its-kind dynamic spectrum sharing model that is widely viewed as an “experiment” of sorts to see whether this method of access to spectrum will allow fair sharing among all potential users of this radio spectrum. The FCC in the United States is at the forefront of using this dynamic sharing method, and many countries around the world are watching closely. If successful, it’s believed that other countries and other spectrum bands will follow a similar model in the future. Mark Radabaugh, President and Founder of WISP Amplex Internet in Ohio says, “I am particularly pleased that, as expected, Cambium Networks followed through on their commitment to protect Amplex’s investment in the PMP 450 platform by allowing our equipment to operate in CBRS, with a simple over-the-air upgrade.”

Cambium Networks works closely with WISPs around the world to understand the details of their requirements, their customer demands, and the local regulatory rules. We are continuously working to provide industry leading spectral efficiency so that operators get the most out of the precious limited spectrum available. We also work to provide solutions that enable them to move quickly to get the best use of newly available spectrum as regulatory needs change to meet the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth.

Published May 11, 2020