Vendor partnerships usually don’t raise too many eyebrows or pulse rates around here, but when I came across an announcement by Lemko and Federated Wireless promoting a joint effort on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) it did get my attention.
CBRS, if you aren’t familiar, refers to shared 3.5 GHz spectrum recently opened by the FCC for commercial applications, and everyone from the big carriers to the likes of Cisco and Google are throwing their weight behind it. One possible application would be LTE services, which could come in the form of extended carrier networks, new cable service provider networks, and even private enterprise networks for IoT or other connectivity.
Federated Wireless, one of the vendors involved in this new partnership, has been among the most active companies in bringing CBRS to reality (See also: “The wireless spectrum sharing mover and shaker you might not know“). Federated has designed cloud-based spectrum controller technology that will enable service providers and enterprises to safely exploit the new shared spectrum, and as it turns out, will work with with Lemko’s 4G EZ Access Point for building private LTE networks indoors or outdoors.
I acknowledge having been completely oblivious to Lemko, despite the fact that the Itasca, Ill., company has been around since 2003 as the brainchild of a few former Motorola employees and is the self-proclaimed “world’s leading provider of Private LTE Networks” (previously, it called itself “the leader in Virtualized Core Network OS for Super Mobility”…). So I connected with Norman Fekrat, an investor in the company as well as its chief strategy and revenue officer, to learn more about how Lemko might help move the CBRS market forward.
Lemko is primarily a software company and got its start in 2G/3G carrier products, aiming to lower the cost of telecom, and is now focused on providing the operating system for radio transceivers, says Fekrat, who spent nearly 20 years at Andersen Consulting/Accenture in telecom consulting. “What Lemko has basically is a virtualized mobile packet core,” he says, that enables customers to build carrier-less LTE networks like they would Wi-Fi ones.
“We think 3.5 [GHz spectrum] will help the carriers extend their networks in-building, but they will still always be expensive…they’re not solving the fundamental problem of how they’ve engineered their networks in a cost-prohibitive way — they still have to backhaul it,” he says (hear more of Fekrat’s views on carrier networks in the TIA video below). In particular, he argues that carrier service economics can be a tough sell for Internet of Things applications.
While CBRS is still in the trial stage, with plenty of demos shown off at venues such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Lemko has begun working with customers on private LTE networks that use other spectrum, including 2.4 GHz, 2.5 GHz and 3.65 GHz, the latter of which will be folded into CBRS spectrum. Customers are opting for private LTE where Wi-Fi comes up against security and capacity constraints, Fekrat says, noting that the company’s small cell product is CBRS-ready, prepped to kick into action once CBRS gear and services get certified over the next year.