Boingo is poised to be a key beneficiary from the carriers (e.g., Verizon and DISH) and cable companies (e.g., Charter and Comcast), as both were the biggest winners in the CBRS Auction 105.
Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is a 150 MHz wide broadcast band of the 3.5 GHz band. Of the 150 MHz, 70 MHz is licensed spectrum and 80 MHz is for general authorized access, meaning unlicensed. The CBRS Auction 105, for the licensed portion of the spectrum, concluded on September 2, 2020. The winners were released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in aggregate, generating $4.5bn of net proceeds.
Key CBRS Auction Winners Include:
- Verizon: $1.9bn of net total winning bids, representing national average spectrum depth of 15.7 MHz
- DISH: $913m of net total winning bids, representing national average spectrum depth of 19.4 MHz
- Charter: $464m of net total winning bids, representing national average spectrum depth of 4.4 MHz
- Comcast: $459m of net total winning bids, representing national average spectrum depth of 7.8 MHz
- Cox: $213m of net total winning bids, representing national average spectrum depth of 2.5 MHz
- T-Mobile: $5.5m of net total winning bids, representing national average spectrum depth of 0.1 MHz
CBRS spectrum will be deployed on both 4G and 5G networks, using small cell and DAS infrastructure. This is a much more efficient and low-cost deployment model. For example, the 80 MHz unlicensed portion of the CBRS band can be used in buildings at very low cost, in order to service a specific need.
Boingo will benefit from the recently concluded CBRS auction because it puts valuable mid-band spectrum in the possession of wireless carriers. For example, Verizon, the largest winner in the CBRS Auction 105, represented 11% of Boingo’s total revenue during fiscal year 2019. Moreover, Verizon will deploy CBRS aggressively as part of its mid-band 5G roll-out.
Verizon, the Largest CBRS Winner – Strategy for the Spectrum
Initially, Verizon will use CBRS for its 4G/LTE network and then eventually transition it to its 5G network. However, CBRS will not be used as a base coverage layer for 4G/LTE or 5G on its own. This is because there are certain specific features of the spectrum, including its very low power levels. Because of these power limitations, CBRS deployments will occur on small cells and DAS, in very dense urban environments.
Verizon will also use CBRS, in-partnership with enterprises. For example, CBRS can provide enterprises a dedicated amount of indoor spectrum. Applications for indoor spectrum include in-building or campus network services.
CBRS Total Addressable Market Expected to Grow Post-Auction
CBRS will allow for neutral host and private network models to proliferate further. This is an opportunity which Boingo will grow immensely from given that it partners with the wireless carriers, like Verizon, to build these networks.
Neutral host and private network opportunities represent billions of dollars in new total addressable market for Boingo over the next 5 to 10 years. Moreover, additional mid-band spectrum, such as the C-band auction in December 2020 will further grow Boingo’s total addressable market into 2021 and beyond.
Overall, industry trends of densification and shared spectrum models are gaining increasing momentum and ultimately present new multi-billion-dollar opportunities. Boingo with its proven neutral host DAS model will participate in this growth, particularly now that the CBRS auction has concluded.
Boingo operates 73 DAS (distributed antenna systems) networks containing 38k DAS nodes. Additionally, the company operates a Wi-Fi network of 1.3 million commercial Wi-Fi hotspots, in more than 100 countries globally.