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Chicomm Blog

WIFI vs CBRS: Understanding the Differences

Posted by Tom Treichler on Tuesday, February 19, 2019

wifi-vs-crbs-understanding-the-differencesIf you’re in the market for communications technologies to improve your operations, two terms you’ll hear frequently are WIFI and CBRS. Here, we look at WIFI vs CBRS, including their definitions, benefits and key differences to provide insights to help you determine which one is a fit for your company or organization.

Basic definitions

WIFI is a popular wireless technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections. The term WIFI is a trademarked phrase that means IEEE 802.11x, and it is not actually short for “wireless fidelity,” despite common perception.

WIFI networks are able to provide a connection between sender and receiver through a radio frequency within the electromagnetic spectrum associated with radio wave propagation. No physical wired connection is used. WIFI is a WLAN network, which means a local area network distribution method for two or more devices that use high-frequency radio waves.

On the other hand, CBRS is an LTE wireless network, which means long-term evolution, a standard for wireless broadband communication that increases capacity and speed using a different radio interface and core network improvements. LTE is commonly marketed at 4G LTE or Advance 4 G, but it does not meet the criteria for 4G wireless service.

CBRS stands for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, and it was created by the FCC for shared wireless broadband use of the 3550-3700 MHz band (3.5 GHz band). Essentially, CBRS provides a licensed radio frequency spectrum for specified users. CBRS benefits national defense agencies and industrial applications and enhances especially indoor applications where there is often a shortage of reliable frequencies.

When it comes to evaluating WIFI vs CBRS, it’s recognized that CBRS offers greater performance than WIFI because it is on the licensed spectrum and not shared.

In addition, according to sources, CBRS has significant benefits. The technology: 

  • Makes private LTE wireless networks economically and technically feasible 
  • Uses advanced SAS, so communications can be instant without the “listen-before-talk” requirement 
  • Allows wireless carriers to add coverage and capacity 
  • Changes how Distributed Antenna Systems Solutions are owned and operated by neutral hosts

WIFI vs CBRS: Which one to choose?

Understanding which technology is best for your organization starts with knowing what each one can do. Sources note WIFI operates on unlicensed frequencies in the Industrial, Scientific, and Medical bands at 2.45 and 5GHz, along with Bluetooth and other low-power communication technologies.

There are mechanisms in place to stop interference from happening, yet typically it’s unavoidable. Further, WIFI is not designed to be used over large areas and it does not have “hand off” capabilities. This makes WIFI less efficient as it requires several access points to keep connections going.

If your company has a large geographical area, you could use CBRS to create a secure private LTE network instead of WIFI for specific applications. The technology would allow users to utilize employee mobile devices, expand in-building coverage, and provide enhanced security features. All this could be done without having to rely on a wireless carrier.

If you’re not a large company and you are not having issues with coverage, performance, or security, WIFI can be the easier, more economical answer. If CBRS is not an option, WIFI can also be enhanced with a Distributed Antenna System Solution.  

For help with your communications and for more information about WIFI vs CBRS, contact us. And to learn more about increasing connectivity with a distributed antenna system, download our free guide.Distributed Antenna System Guide CTA - Blog