Celona intros public/private neutral host service in CBRS, starting with T-Mobile

US private networking specialist Celona has released an “end-to-end” neutral host service that operates over shared CBRS spectrum in the US. The cloud-based software solution allows organizations to extend public 4G-LTE coverage, initially with T-Mobile in the US, to environments with patchy mobile reception, notably indoors. The firm said it expects to offer the same with AT&T by the second half of 2024, and with Verizon by the end of next year. It is also in talks with mobile operators in Europe, notably in the UK, and Asia to offer an equivalent service.

It will also make it available for 5G in due course, and is launching with a 5G access point, alongside an LTE-only one, to offer enterprises a way to extend public 5G in their premises as it is available. T-Mobile has certified the Celona neutral host offer as part of its so-called ‘Bring Your Own Coverage 2.0’ (BYOC 2.0) scheme, following some months of work and a trial with an large (unnamed) national retailer. The service meets T-Mobile’s quality standards and regulatory requirements for voice and data services, emergency e911 calling, and other subscriber services. 

The service allows support for up to six mobile networks at once, including five public networks at most, and one private network at least. It uses Celona’s ‘multi-operator exchange network’ (MOXN) technology, a multi-site, multi-tenant cloud exchange that simplifies operations and removes certain “hardware burdens” – notably by integrating with existing IT infrastructure for backhaul to the cloud. Celona explained: “Subscriber traffic is aggregated and securely tunneled to the operator core network, making the experience seamless to users while guaranteeing service level agreements and key performance indicators for each [operator’s] public services.”

Celona is taking direct aim at the market for distributed antenna system (DAS) products, which Celona said has failed to deliver on account of “cost and complexity”. It said its neutral host LTE solution, running in the “shared private” CBRS band at 3.55-3.7 GHz in the US, can be operational in a “fraction of the time at nearly half the cost” of legacy DAS systems. “DAS based implementations have long been mired with high price tags, long deployment times, and lack of enterprise control and visibility. Celona’s neutral host service can be operational in weeks, not years, and is under enterprise IT’s control without the burden and cost of additional on-site equipment,” it stated.

The firm will sell the service via its own sales channels, including through system integrators NTT and World Wide Technology (WWT), plus others. It said it will seek to collaborate also with T-Mobile’s enterprise sales team in certain circumstances, where the customer profile and opportunity is correct. It is being pitched to indoorsy-types at the non-critical end of the Industry 4.0 game, plus manufacturing (factories). It listed healthcare (hospitals), retail (shops), hospitality (hotels), education (universities), and white-collar business (offices) as targets.

It noted these are sectors that have been failed by DAS technologies, which have tended to do better in larger venues such as stadiums, stations, and malls. It also suggested such harder-nosed Industry 4.0 sectors as oil and gas, metals and mining, and chemical production are likely to remain mostly as sectors for private cellular only. It stated: “These organizations will now be able to provide pervasive and reliable indoor public cellular connectivity to T-Mobile subscribers while using the same private wireless infrastructure to support business-critical applications that require deterministic wireless connectivity and performance.”

Stanford Health Care (SHC), part of Stanford University Medical Center, has been confirmed as the first customer to take the service, apart from the unnamed retailer. SHC could not make the business case for private LTE on its own, said Celona, but the addition of a neutral host service has seen it rethink, and possibly take both. Christian Lindmark, chief technology officer at SHC, said: “In addition to providing in-building cellular, our vision includes… a secure, private network for core medical wireless technologies, such as clinical communication, patient monitoring, and clinical video feeds.”

The retailer already takes private LTE from Celona. The California-based form is offering the service on a three-year subscription, covering all hardware and software, from $5,000 (total) per LTE-only indoor access point; the addition of a private wireless network takes the starting fee to $11,000, for both services, over the term of the contract. It said pricing for up to three additional operators will be released as support becomes available.

Mehmet Yavuz, co-founder and chief technology officer at Celona, commented: “This is a major milestone for the networked world that we believe will be the killer app for bringing private wireless to the carpeted enterprise. For the last several years, we have meticulously engineered a more modern solution to solve the age-old in-building cellular coverage issue that has been the source of so much frustration for companies across nearly every industry.”

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