Celona – LTE for Enterprise at MFD4

After the Mobility Field Day 4 live streams stopped, we secretly met with a secret company and were sworn to secrecy through a series of secret rituals and rites. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but there was definitely an unannounced company at MFD4.

That company, Celona, has now gone public, and it’s finally time to talk about what this could mean for the future of mobile devices inside enterprise networks. Here’s a hint: It is exciting!

Celona’s product is a fully integrated cloud based solution for CBRS or Citizens Band Radio Service. Before we go any further, understand that CBRS has nothing to do with truckers, Smokey and the Bandit, oversized antennas or anything near 27Mhz.

Instead, CBRS uses spectrum above 3.5Ghz and LTE technology with power output of up to 1watt/Mhz EIRP allowed by the FCC. The combination of higher power and LTE could mean a much broader coverage area than is usually offered by conventional Wi-Fi.

Further, clients that are CBRS capable must meet the much stricter 3GPP standards. Those standards highlight how weak and incapable the Wi-Fi Alliance is. Most importantly, those standards remove many of the client frustrations that many wireless engineers face daily such as poor 802.11r,k,v support.

Certification is required to install CBRS equipment and is attained after completing an online course. This course from Google cost $599 for the course and online exam, which makes it accessible to most wireless engineers who may decide to expand their craft and marketable skills. The certification is required as there are licensing requirements and frequency coordination, similar to those proposed for the 6ghz band due to incumbents in the space.

The best part of CBRS is that it allows enterprise customers to take ownership of their LTE coverage and data. Celona’s solution will enable ownership of the data path from the client device through the CBRS system and on to either internally hosted systems or out to the internet.

A quick google search will bring up a slew of articles screaming, “CBRS will kill Wi-Fi.” That is hardly the case. However, there are plenty of places where CBRS will be an excellent solution. For example, areas with high roaming requirements will benefit from the LTE underpinnings. Additionally, in medical and hospital systems iPhones, which are regularly used SIM-less to ensure HIPAA and PI data protection, will be able to connect to a hospital managed and controlled CBRS system.

Celona’s role in this space is providing the cloud based management solution and hardware. It’s easy to imagine them as the Mist Systems of CBRS, and that’s not far from the truth. Their business model is especially useful in CBRS, because it doesn’t require extensive knowledge of LTE standards to configure and manage a solution.

Before Celona’s vision can become fully realized, there are a few barriers to entry. In short, we need a skilled workforce that is capable and licensed to install and manage the equipment and appropriate tools required to design and troubleshoot installations.

The tools challenge is significant. Spectrum planning and coverage design is more complicated due to frequency coordination and licensing. Spectrum Analyzers which are currently capable of checking 3.5Ghz are very expensive and each new tool comes with a learning curve.

Considering the number of devices which support Band 48 out of the box, including the new iPhone, devices are already available. Celona brings the network that enterprises can install. With the right tools and enough licensed engineers, Celona and CBRS could have a very bright future.

Check out the event page at TechFieldDay.com and let me know what you think in the comments.

Introduction to Celona and CBRS Fundamentals from Gestalt IT on Vimeo.

Mist Systems Unveils an Environmental Sensor that is also a Wi-Fi 6 AP

At Mobility Field Day 4, we heard from a few companies which are working hard to extend the capabilities of their AP’s well past only serving traditional 802.11 clients.
Mist Systems, a Juniper Company, was one such presenter, and they might have a fantastic new platform with their latest hardware, the AP43.

Mist Wi-Fi 6 AP Specs

The idea is simple. Most campuses have AP’s covering their entire environment. In many large environments, they share that ceiling space with other types of sensors or networks. These overlay networks may include building and security sensors, Zigbee control of lights or door locks, and test sensor networks.

In many ways, Mist has been a bit ahead of this curve. Their AP’s already included an IoT port, which enabled triggering devices like door locks or sensing through a variety of GPIO sensors.

Their new AP43 is a dual 5Ghz capable 802.11ax access point. It includes 802.3bz NBASE-T port to ensure the network port never becomes a bottleneck. That port also includes 802.3bt power capabilities so that it can pass power out of its secondary port, enabling it to daisy chain any 802.3af network device. The obvious candidate here is the BT11, Mist’s BLE sensor.

Further, each AP43 includes built-in sensors to provide temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and angle/orientation. The inclusion of these sensors come with some unique engineering challenges. If Mist is successful in getting them to work appropriately, it could be a game-changer.

The biggest challenge when considering environment monitoring on an access point is heat. Anyone who has ever touched an AP that has been on for a while knows it can be hot. Thanks to the first law of thermodynamics, we know that all energy consumed by the AP that doesn’t get radiated as RF is instead transformed to heat. But that heat output isn’t consistent. It will vary based on the transmitter duty cycle or CPU load of the AP.

Additionally, that heat creates a micro-climate around the AP, which will lower the humidity percentage since warm air holds more water than cool air. Warm air is also less dense, which may affect the barometric pressure sensor.

The humidity/heat problem is further exacerbated by the fact that all water in the air is absorbing a small amount of the radiated RF power.

Finally, the ceiling can be many degrees warmer than in the same room at desk level.
These are challenges that I am sure Mist has taken into account, and the fact that they can work through them is impressive. Having environmental reporting built into the AP could make for a fantastic use case for building managers.

Moving down the list, the barometric pressure and orientation/angle sensor have some compelling use cases. By comparing atmospheric pressure among AP neighbors, Mist should be able to tell which AP’s are on the same floor in multi-floor buildings. This information could significantly impact 802.11k neighbor reports. By excluding AP’s which may be heard by the AP, but are obviously on a different floor, the chances of a client choosing a better roam candidate increases.

By comparing atmospheric pressure among AP neighbors, Mist should be able to tell which AP’s are on the same floor in multi-floor buildings. This information could significantly impact 802.11k neighbor reports.

Finally, the angle sensor can help identify AP’s mounted on a wall versus a ceiling. With that information and Mist’s ML backend, it should be able to better locate clients in RTLS environments.

These new sensors extend the AP capabilities well past the traditional use cases. Can Mist pull off the environmental monitoring? Can they adjust their neighbor report automatically based on elevation? I’m excited to play with these features in the future and get to the bottom of these answers and more.

Either way, it is clear that Mist has built the AP43 as a platform they can innovate with and I’m excited to see where they take it.

Take a look and tell me what you think:

Mist Systems Mist AI for AX – Wi-Fi 6 from Gestalt IT on Vimeo.