Welcome back to the solution series brought to you by DoubleRadius, and your host Jeff Holdenrid.
Jeff: Today we have a special guest today, Erik Randall from Baicells.
Before we get into Biacells could you give us a little history of where you come from, your background, and how you ended up working at Baicells?
Erik: I am the Channel Manager here at Baicells, I have a very strong technical background. I have spent the last 12 years I have spent in distribution, but on the support and engineering side. With Baicells I have learned and become part of Biacells 4 years ago when they first introduced their LTE certification class. With that certification class I have learned Baicells really well and the people also. I have gravitated toward that product and that vendor significantly. As our relationship continued to develop I have learned more and more about them and I really looked forward to working for them until the right position opened, that is how I ended up here. What I am doing now with Baicells being the channel manager is being responsible for the partnership with Baicells and all of our partners. I do presentations, trainings, partner engagement, basically anything a partner needs. At the end of the day I am here to be a knowledge resource for our partners.
Jeff: That is awesome. As we all know Baicells and DoubleRadius has had a relationship for a long period of time. We have some people from DoubleRadius that have come from Baicells, and some people from DoubleRadius who are now working at Baicells. We have a great relationship, especially supplying LTE solutions to the market space.
So, in your opinion, what are some of the roadblocks that you are seeing people today stumble upon with LTE that maybe they should know ahead of time, or maybe we could solve and tell them about it now to be successful with LTE?
Erik: I think the first major roadblock with LTE is the complexity of it. You have your regular network that you deal with, but with LTE you add SIM cards and how that SIMs provision with the evolved packet cord (EPC). That is a major complexity. How Baicells helps overcome that hurdle is they put everything in the cloud with a single source of easy provisioning. That SIM card is now done in the cloud, you have the security of a regular EPC but it is in the cloud and easier to use.
Jeff: Talking about EPC, I think that is something we could educate people on. For all these years it has been a PTMP (Point to Multi-Point) fixed wireless network where you assignment your IP addresses and rock and roll. In an LTE network you still have your radio, antenna, CPE, but you just mentioned EPC. What exactly are those extra parts and pieces above the radios that LTE brings to the table and what exactly do they do?
Erik: What the EPC does is give a single source of provisioning for each subscriber. Each subscriber now can be its own entity with its own security, it can have its own throughput and its own package. That is what the EPC allows, but on top of that it also gives you a place to set up an entire group of individuals in a quicker way of deploying it. This EPC now gives you the advantage of taking that SIM card, that little subscriber information, and going from 1 device to another device to another. You can now use your IPhone, your Samsung Nexis, or any device you want with these LTE networks.
Jeff: Are there any other parts to LTE or is it pretty much radios and EPCs?
Eric: That is basically the main difference between your LTE network and your typically PTMP is just that addition of the EPC and SIM cards.
Jeff: In LTE, or Private LTE, where are you seeing the primary deployments of LTE today?
Eric: One of the things your just touched on was the primary difference between LTE and Private LTE networks. It really means one in the same. When people reference a Private LTE network they are just referring to a network on T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, etc. That private part really doesn’t have to be added on, do not let that confuse you. It is just an LTE network and its private because it is your network, not part of a public entity (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc).
Jeff: Thank you, that is a perfect explication. Adding that one word can make things seem difficult, even though they are really not.
Erik: With the Private LTE a lot of people, before it came to the WISP operators that we currently use, Private LTE was more considered for a mining facility where they would be their own little entity on top of AT&T coming in. They would have their own private LTE network in this small space. That is kind of where the Private LTE evolved from.
Jeff: I am going to through you a curve ball a little bit on this one. Over the years we have always had the CPEs CAT15, CAT3, etc, can you tell me what the differences are between the categories and how that works?
Erik: Right now in the fixed wireless and these categories we have 4, 6, 12, 15 … they are the dominating factors right now. They continue to evolve. IU believe our IPhones right now are CAT23, so a category 4 is just on the low end of the spectrum. It allows for a single carrier, a max of 20 MHz, it doesn’t do anything more than 2by2 MIMO (Multi-Input Multi-Output), where as when you get into the category 6 it does 2 carriers down, your 4by4 MIMO. When you get up into the 12 or 15 that is when you are doing more carriers and more MIMO is allowed. Essentially when you are evolving these steps, these categories, you are allowing more features and more advancements with an LTE.
Jeff: Are you seeing different receive sensitivity on these category CPEs? For instance, if I was deploying a CAT4 are we seeing a better received sensitivity our of a category 4 than if we go to a 6 or 15, or is it just your multi-carrier, higher speeds, more MIMOs?
Erik: It is predominantly just the higher speeds and more MIMO, each of the categories have their own high-gain or low-gain antenna. That is where you are going to see the change in received sensitivities. The other aspect of going from a high-gain antenna is right now a category 4 stops at a 64 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) on the downlink, whereas when you move up into the category 12 or 15 it does go up to 256 QAM on the modulation side.
Jeff: That does sound like a big benefit there on the modulation schemes, higher throughput, and everything else. Now there has been a lot of talk about the 2.5 GHz auction, we all have our own opinions on it, but how much 2.5 are you seeing in your space right now and do you still see that as a big growth place for the future?
Erik: 2.5 is big in North America. The Tribal Nations have access to 2.5, a lot of EDU have access. You mentioned the auction, that is allowing for more people to get involved into 2.5. It is predominately the old Sprint/T-Mobile network. That auction is going to allow Sprint/T-Mobile to bid on it right along with operators as well. We are actually seeing a lot of push in different areas like the Appalachian Mountains where we need a little bit more penetration. Those operators are looking a lot more at this auction what what you would normally find. With this auction coming up I can see a lot more movement toward these operators in these spaces where they really need that extra penetration into the woods.
Jeff: I know over time we have had the 5 GHz band, which is basically a line of sight band, the the 365 came out as a near non-line of sight. All the operators I have talked to have said, especially the WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Providers) if they could use 2.5 with the ability to hit those clients they have not been able to hit with 5G and CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) so they have been deploying 2.5 to hit those hard to reach areas.
Erik: It makes complete sense, as you lower your frequency you have better penetration into those areas. With the addition of LTE and Multi-Path the 2.5 has been an awesome spectrum.
Jeff: Baicells released a new radio, the 846, what is that bringing to the table?
Eric: We have released a couple new products, the 846 is one. It is 2 radios in 1 housing like we normally do but this is 4by4 instead of your typical 2by2. This is going allow better signal to come back and forth. It also allows for more throughput because you have more antennas sending and receiving. The other products we have are a 430I and it is basically a duel carrier and small function, which is great for smaller environments.
Jeff: We are seeing a lot of micro pop setup, especially as you have mentioned the Appalachian Mountians and down the East Coast I see a lot of clients who have a pocket of people here and a pocket of people there. What product are you seeing as a best fit that you guys offer that best fit that micro pop area?
Erik: With the micro pop it all depends on what you are looking at, such as an RV Park area. You would want the smallest cell possible where it is not that busy and doesn’t look that bad. In a case like that we would use a 430, it allows for 40 MHz and hits the areas needed to hit. It is a very small cell. Now, if you do a subdivision where you can put up a 60 ft tower that is where you would deploy the 846. You could take advantage of whichever antenna you want to use (65ft, 120ft, etc.) and you could really hit the entire area you need to hit with the throughput these customers desire.
Jeff: What other market spaces are you seeing popping up that maybe shocked you or you see pushing harder and growing more than you expected growing outside of the WISP space? Where are you seeing LTE push that was kind of a surprise?
Erik: I don’t think there are any spaces that have surprised me. I think CBRS is slow to be adopted honestly. Where we are seeing the most growth right now is in your enterprise spaces like EDUs. I personally feel like when CBRS was first announced and this spectrum became available, that EDU space to MDU space, these indoor products are perfect for that space but it was very slow to adopt. Now the EDU space is starting to take off with all the different options that LTE provides. Because LTE is a standard you do not have to conform to 1, you can use all. We are starting to see more adoption into CBRS and LTE now, more than 3 years ago when CBRS first launched.
Jeff: I know you offer an indoor CPE, are you seeing more use of the indoor CPE?
Erik: The indoor CPE is actually great usage for the indoor EDU space. We have one example in Vegas where they needed an easy and quick roll out solution so they set up 436s in a 360 and right around a half of mile they were able to hand out students to these indoor units. The indoor units were just pointed at a tower with an indoor radio and that house now has an easy to deploy, you do not have to roll in a truck, and they students are now connected back to the schools network.
Jeff: Is there 1 particular deployment that sticks out in your head as an awe or a big community win that you could share with us?
Eric: I think the best example of what LTE can do and what Baicells did to support the community was during the pandemic in early 2020. School systems were struggling trying to figure out how they could continue allowing students to work remotely. Wi-Fi doesn’t give you the coverage you need when trying to figure out these solutions whether proprietary or LTE. What Baicells brought to the table was a fast easy to deploy solution, almost plug and play. What the city of Los Vegas did was put up the system and they were able to deploy and have their students up and running in just 45 days. But now, the kicker to that is they have this great LTE network so what else can they do with it? They are trying to figure out other ways of evolving this network. They are looking at sensors around the city, for example: this dumpster is getting full so we need to send out a trash truck to unload it.
So the fact that you can take an LTE network and say “Beautiful, I have this up and running but now what else can I do with it?” And with LTE there is so many more things you can do with it.
Jeff: Just throwing out on a whim here, are you guys seeing anything on the agricultural space?
Erik: Yes we are. Again, this is why LTE is so perfect for almost every deployment so Private LTE with this you could put out an 846 covering 360 degrees and you can get 3-5 miles easy on the agriculture space to where each one of your tractors, each well/watering sites you know and will get all your data back via LTE instead of using other technologies.
Jeff: That’s perfect. Last question for you: if you had a crystal ball (even in your opinion) where do you see LTE in 1-3-5 years?
Erik: I’m new at Baicells, and one of the reason I am now at Baicells is because of that crystal ball. I like LTE, where is it progressing and where it is going. As we move into the 4G or the 5G space we are going to see more used cases with all of the throughput and all the additions that 5G adds to it. There are so many different options with that. We are going to be using 50MHz, 100MHz, etc up into that 1G category for throughput .. and that is what everyone is deserting. LTE is moving into warehouses at a significant rate where autonomous vehicular, autonomous robots are happening more and more as we speak. It is exciting being part of that march, that step into the future to see how it is going to progress. So, for me, it is that 1-3 years watching where LTE is going to progress into the next step, and then the next step after that and seeing our products fit into that mold.
Jeff: Perfect, thank you very much for your time today. Operators out there; one reason I was excited about this meeting to talk about LTE is the service provider industry has done an amazing job of bringing broadband to the unserved, the underserved, helping out with the education space, helping people to connect to their schools and their work, especially with everyone doing virtual meetings these days. When you look at LTE and you think outside of your box of connectivity I think LTE is going to be a future roadmap of ways with our creativity now figuring out what else we can do with it for connections and solving problems. We can open up other revenue streams for our operators rather than just bringing broadband to the area.
Erik: I agree completely on that one, that is a great point!
Jeff: Eric, thank you again for your time today to discuss LTE and what is going on at Baicells and sharing feedback on a few things. We look forward to having you back. It was a pleasure and fun. Thank you.