Motorola Solutions unveils CBRS-based solution to deliver voice, data to enterprise customers
Motorola Solutions today launched MOTOTRBO Nitro, a fully managed solution that will leverage LTE technology on the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) to deliver business-critical voice and broadband data solutions to enterprises.
“The unique thing about Nitro is that we’re going to be using the soon-to-be-available broadband spectrum called CBRS that the FCC is in the process of opening right now,” Jerry Gard, Motorola Solutions’ director of engineering for the professional commercial engineering group, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We’re going to use this spectrum as our RF medium for this new TRBO network.
“Basically, what this is going to provide you is a TRBO network that provides the business-critical voice communications that we’re used to with MOTOTRBO but also with broadband data capabilities. Really, it’s the best of both worlds, in terms of high-quality, high-definition wideband audio with purpose-built devices and broadband spectrum.”
MOTOTRBO Nitro will operate over both the licensed and unlicensed spectrum that will be available in the CBRS band. CBRS has 150 MHz of spectrum—known as Band 48—and at least 80 MHz of spectrum will be unlicensed, Gard said. The FCC is expected to conduct an auction to let bidders vie for priority access licenses (PALs) within the licensed CBRS airwaves, but the band’s unlicensed spectrum should fulfill enterprises’ needs in most geographical locations in the country, he said.
“If you’re outside of a metropolitan area, there’s probably no need for a PAL,” Gard said.
Motorola Solutions unveiled the MOTOTRBO Nitro offering during today’s opening of the company’s annual Channel Partners Expo, which is being conducted this year in San Diego. Dealers at the event are being trained to install the “plug-and-play” Nitro systems, Gard said.
“We will take orders starting Monday, and then it’s a normal ship cycle after that,” he said. “So, customers can start to receive it in April.”
MOTOTRBO Nitro utilizes different technology and spectrum than a traditional DMR-based MOTOTRBO system that the company has provided to enterprises for years, but the two types of systems are designed to be linked, if a customer wants.
“This is interoperable with an existing TRBO system,” Gard said. “So, if you have an existing TRBO system that you’re using, you can basically connect that into a Nitro system and interoperate with your voice and data going forward. It is interoperable [with an existing MOTOTRBO system] and can be complementary.
“If you have a smartphone and you put a Kodiak [push-to-talk-over cellular] client on the smartphone, the Kodiak client can interoperate with both systems—the Nitro side and the traditional MOTOTRBO side—through a gateway.”
Given the allowable power levels and propagation characteristics of 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum, a MOTOTRBO Nitro will require many more cell sites than a traditional MOTOTRBO system, Gard said. Layering the two types of networks may be the best approach for some potential customers, he said.
“We really think that the sweet spot for the [MOTOTRBO Nitro] solution is more of a campus-wide setting, where it’s maybe a limited geographical area,” Gard said. “There’s no reason you can’t go and cover a large area with this, but it’s lower power than a traditional TRBO. We’d probably let TRBO cover some sort of countywide system or something, while this is an on-site, campus-wide solution.”
Sectors like manufacturing, mining and hospitality—particularly those that are interested in exploring industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions are expected find the the MOTOTRBO Nitro offering most appealing, according to Gard.
“This will be one network doing voice and data,” he said. “You can put our devices on the network, or you can put smart devices on the network that support Band 48. So, you can get a SIM from Motorola and put any device on the network that supports the band.
“It’s a great solution for not only voice but also all kinds of data applications.”
Gard did not disclose Motorola Solutions’ pricing of the new Nitro system but provided some context on the cost.
“It’s going to be priced above a traditional MOTOTRBO, because we’re bringing not only the voice solution but also broadband data,” he said. “It’s going to be competitive, if you look at voice plus Wi-Fi or something like that, but it’s definitely going to be more expensive than a voice-only type of system.”
But enterprise customers will be able to pay for the expense of a MOTOTRBO Nitro via regular payments from their operating-expense budgets, according to John Zidar, Motorola Solutions’ corporate vice president for North America commercial markets.
“One of the reasons why we’re offering it as a managed service is that we’ve heard from numerous customers—especially in the commercial space—that they want to avoid a large capital expense or a lumpy project that they have to plan a budget for,” Zidar said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“This allows them, from an operating model, maybe to get to that IoT state where they’re reading sensors over a data network, and they have a workflow app on their smartphone, radio or purpose-built device. Offering it as a service maybe just allows them to get there faster.”
Gard echoed this sentiment, noting that an enterprise could begin a MOTOTRBO Nitro system with just a couple of access points and then expand the system as needed in the future.
“As a managed service, Motorola is managing that entire infrastructure—the customer does not need to have someone on staff to maintain that infrastructure,” Gard said. “We’re downloading the software, we’re managing it, we’re looking for cybersecurity vulnerabilities and that kind of thing.”
Although a MOTOTRBO Nitro customer does not have to deal with the day-to-day maintenance responsibilities, the customer owns the private network, so an enterprise can enjoy the type of network control that they would have with a private LMR system, Gard said.
Ken Rehbehn, principal analyst, Critical Communications, IHS Markit Technology, cited the unique approach that Motorola Solutions is pursuing with the MOTOTRBO Nitro offering.
“Motorola Solutions’ Nitro offer provides a distinct departure from classical approaches towards private mobile radio deployments,” Rehbehn said in a prepared statement that appeared in a Motorola Solutions press release.
“By leveraging the flexible managed new spectrum available with CBRS to create a cloud-based, broadband land-mobile-radio system, Motorola provides enterprises with the benefits of trusted push-to-talk functionality based on MOTOTRBO, as well as a comprehensive private LTE data network. The approach should deliver increased voice and data functionality with a compelling total cost of ownership.”