Commissioner calls for government agencies to free up more mid-band spectrum, says CBRS could be operational within weeks
Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said that the systems to support operations in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum are very close to final certification, and also called on government agencies to assess their spectrum holdings and make more midband radio frequencies available for commercial use.
CBRS “is closing in on the end of its development cycle and approaching the initial deployment stage,” O’Rielly said during remarks at the CBRS Alliance’s annual members meeting, which is being held this week in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Today, we stand the brink of seeing the returns on all the work that has been poured into getting CBRS up and operational.”
There are two pieces that need to fall into place before the three-tiered, spectrum-sharing CBRS system is fully operational: the final review and approval of Spectrum Access Systems which enable devices to properly access and share the available spectrum resources and the Environmental Sensing Capability systems (a sensor network along the coast to detect incumbent naval radar systems in order to provide protection for them against other users in the band).
“While some steps experienced unfortunate delays and this process has taken far longer than anyone would have liked, it appears to be nearing the
end,” O’Rielly said. He went on to say that the first three ESC applicants have completed lab testing and that after reviewing the lab reports, FCC staff approved those systems on Monday. “These operators are basically good to go once they get their specific deployments approved through the established registration system, which the Commission is committed to completing quickly, and as soon as there is an operational SAS,” O’Rielly added.
However, he said, SAS testing is “still in progress” and that tranche 3 testing was expected to be completed at some point yesterday. O’Rielly said that it was his understanding that after that testing, the SAS applicants get a preliminary report within 5 days and a final test report within 30 days. He later tweeted:
“We will need to approve them quickly so that the initial commercial deployment phase can proceed very soon, hopefully within a few weeks of today,” O’Rielly said of the SASes, adding that he will “continue to push to make sure the FCC does its part.
“Frankly, all parties have been working closely together throughout this process, so the FCC and federal agencies should be able to expedite final
review,” he went on.
CBRS spectrum access will occur under the General Authorized Access level at this point, because the auction for Priority Access Licenses, or PALs, hasn’t happened yet.
The FCC revisited the terms of the PALs last year and decided that PALs will cover county-size license areas, and they will have renewable license terms of 10 years. There are about 3,000 counties in the U.S. and seven PALs will be available in each license area; the FCC will permit partitioning and disaggregation of PALs. However, that auction isn’t expected to happen until 2020.
“I frankly don’t see a way it could happen before second quarter 2020,” O’Rielly said. “That is just not soon enough. We seem to be stuck in the abyss of auction software development and technical-sounding excuses. Procrastination must end, and the auction must be scheduled. Blame for this cannot be laid on the Chairman [Ajit Pai] but represents a larger problem needing substantial work.”
In the meantime, he went on, the FCC “needs to tee-up more mid bands for review.
“While everyone now appears to be jumping on the C-Band wagon now that it’s just the resolution of some of the specific details remaining … there is a great need also to free up the spectrum immediately below the CBRS band,” O’Rielly said, referring specifically to 3.45-3.55 GHz. That band of 100 megahertz of spectrum is needed, he said, so that in large channel sizes for 5G can be created when combined with CBRS and C-band spectrum.
“I recognize that this will cause concern with existing federal government users, but federal agencies happen to be sitting on prime 5G spectrum,” he said, adding that “as much of this spectrum as possible” should be reallocated to meet demand for commercial spectrum. He also went on to call for the additional reallocation of spectrum from 3.1-3.45 GHz, which has incumbent federal users, and that agencies need to “immediately initiate the needed feasibility studies” on that spectrum so that the FCC can decide what to do with it.
“While we generally know that this spectrum is used for ‘shipborne, land-based, and aeronautical mobile radar systems,’ the existing information regarding exactly how, where, and what amount of spectrum is being used at any time is outdated, incomplete, and ultimately unhelpful. Perhaps the entire band may not be suitable for commercial use, but studies
should be initiated, in this instance, to ensure that this spectrum is being used efficiently and to determine whether some, or all, of the 350 megahertz can support commercial use,” O’Rielly said.
In related news, Telit has joined the CBRS Alliance, becoming he first cellular module maker to join the organization and the second new member this month. Telit noted that it already has a gigabit mPCIe adapter card that includes CBRS support, the LM960, as part of its portfolio, which can be used to serve the private LTE market with “routers, gateways and other devices connecting to LTE access points, small cells and other CBRS infrastructure.” The other new CBRS Alliance member this month was Tessco Technologies.
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