Authored by Praveen Chandel and John English
Almost a year ago, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a 150MHz-wide broadcast band (3550MHz to 3700MHz) for public use in commercial wireless services.
This frequency spectrum is available to all communications service providers regardless of whether they have existing licensed spectrum. Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is a lightly licensed band featuring a dynamic spectrum access system that manages the allocation of frequencies in this shared-spectrum range. The flexibility of CBRS makes it an ideal solution for cable/multiple systems operators (MSOs), all other communications service providers, and many types of enterprises. 5G CBRS can provide support for Internet of Things (IoT) networks, edge computing, and private 5G networks.
For the cable/MSOs, CBRS is a small-cell network designed to complement the cable/MSO Wi-Fi network. The shared radio spectrum enables low-cost radio active network (RAN) modules that can utilize unlicensed 5GHz, which is now available to augment existing 4G/LTE CBRS. Although CBRS now offers cable/MSOs the ability to augment their Wi-Fi network and 4G CBRS networks with 5G cellular to provide better coverage, increased bandwidth, and lower latency, there is an essential need for tools that also provide the visibility that allows providers to seamlessly assure and troubleshoot both a new 5G CBRS and the combined CBRS/Wi-Fi network.
NETSCOUT has worked with CBRS early adopters in their labs, “friendlies” field trials, and drive tests to provide visibility and Smart Data support throughout the full product lifecycle of this new service via a holistic set of service assurance and analytics tools.
Confidence to Innovate
To prepare for deployment of 5G CBRS, cable/MSOs must have visibility into the full lifecycle of CBRS/Wi-Fi rollouts, from the network design to full operation, while maintaining network excellence. Starting with the 5G CBSD RAN planning, cable/MSOs need propagation modeling to guide cost-effective CapEx investment that delivers the desired and optimum coverage and performance thresholds. RAN interoperation and troubleshooting requires a session analysis capability that provides deep visibility into the RAN. Ongoing performance monitoring and optimization requires 24x7 visibility and key performance indicators (KPIs). Operators can further enhance their 5G network operation by employing a closed feedback loop for automation fed by Smart Data.
NETSCOUT’s service assurance, analytics, and security solution, which is based on smart data derived from smart visibility, provides market-readiness intelligence, predictive service assurance, actionable insights, and subscriber troubleshooting from the RAN to the core. For service assurance, the NETSCOUT solution provides proactive performance monitoring on accessibility, usability, and retainability.
- NETSCOUT visibility of the control plane renders insights on user access to the CBRS network by looking at the number of attachments, registrations, and authentications along with policy interactions.
- Usability measures the performance of voice, video, and data services (including OTT) observed on the user plane for KPIs such as latency and throughput for both the RAN and core network across regions and markets.
- Retainability metrics look at users and devices that have attached to the network and are accessing services in order to determine whether the service quality is consistent and to identify service degradations—before service failure.
For the RAN, smart visibility must reach down to the critical measurements including Reference Signal Receive Power (RSRP) and Radio Resource Control (RRC) for planning, operation, and optimization. This data enables RAN engineering to identify poor coverage areas and determine whether new sites are required in these areas and/or provide information about the number of subscribers being affected.
Fed by Smart Data heat maps composed for RRC, connection requests look at subscribers and connections to provide additional insights, such as whether additional sites (small cells) are required in a high-traffic area. These types of maps often are exported to and used by RAN planning tools. Other maps indicating geographic traffic distribution are available, including those for areas of high dropped connections and dropped RRC connections due to interference (poor Reference Signal Received Quality, or RSRQ).
UltraHD visibility based on Smart Data provides service assurance continuity from Wi-Fi to a hybrid CBRS/Wi-Fi system. NETSCOUT provides a full vendor-independent CBRS/Wi-Fi lifecycle network equipment solution for service assurance, business analytics, and cybersecurity, with multi-technology network support that helps cable/MSOs deliver superior customer experience. In concert with , NETSCOUT provides a cloud-native software-based solution that offers the lowest TCO.
Cable/MSOs that deploy CBRS systems can save money and improve coverage and service levels, but only if they are truly ready to support this new cellular service. With NETSCOUT, cable/MSOs are ready for 5G CBRS.