Google, WISPA continue fight to retain existing 3.5 GHz rules

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WISPA argues that substantial investments have been made to further expand broadband to rural areas.

Representatives from Google and Alphabet Access, as well as the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), paid a visit to the office of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on Oct. 5 to emphasize the importance of keeping the 3.5 GHz rules as they are and not changing them for the sole benefit of a “select few large mobile wireless carriers.”

Specifically, they met with Travis Litman, Rosenworcels’s chief of staff and senior legal adviser, and presented a map that shows the locations of more than 60 potential Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) licensees that filed letters with the commission opposing proposals submitted by CTIA and T-Mobile, according to a filing with the FCC. Rosenworcel, a Democrat, formally announced Litman as her chief of staff on Oct. 4.

At its next open meeting, the commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would further set into motion changes that would, in the view of WISPA, potentially create huge license areas that benefit only the largest carriers, leaving local providers without an option to purchase rights to areas where they don’t have networks or needs. WISPA points out that its members and others have invested millions in 3550-3700 MHz deployments, service and testing.

RELATED: FCC’s O’Rielly makes case for rule changes at CBRS Alliance meeting

Led by Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, the commission has been reviewing the rules they previously adopted, saying that since the original rules were established, it has become increasingly apparent that the 3.5 GHz band will play a significant role as one of the core midrange bands for 5G throughout the world.

The innovative band, dubbed the CBRS band, uses a three-tiered structure that involves a complicated sharing mechanism whereby the first tier, federal incumbent users—mainly Navy radar—receive the highest order of protection from all other users. That’s followed by the Priority Access License (PAL) tier, which will be comprised of wireless carriers, and the third tier, called General Authorized Access (GAA).

O’Rielly reiterated in an Oct. 5 speech at a 5G Americas event that he is not interested in disrupting GAA or negating the work done on the various databases. “I just want all three tiers of this so-called experiment to be able to work, which they do not today,” he said.

The Google/Alphabet and WISPA representatives who met with Litman pointed out that the draft NPRM proposes to undo rules the commission unanimously adopted just two years ago and emphasized that the existing rules are accelerating fixed broadband deployment to rural areas, supporting many different models and companies and would permit the implementation of 5G’s vision of advancing to multimodel, heterogeneous wireless networks.

They also discussed an Aug. 7 filing by Professor Paul Milgrom, who outlined how the FCC could administer the CBRS PAL auction under the current rules. Milgrom suggested using a simultaneous ascending clock CBRS auction that would allow the FCC to administer an auction of a large number of licenses in a way that would be fast to implement and easy for bidders to use.

RELATED: Auction expert backed by Wi-Fi group, WISPA advocates for auction tailored to 3.5 GHz

For its part, CTIA continues to lobby for its members to change the CBRS rules for longer, 10-year terms with an expectation for renewal and expand the PAL license areas. CTIA representatives, along with representatives from member companies AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, met with Wireless Telecommunications Bureau staff on Oct. 3 to discuss the proceeding, according to an ex parte filing.  

CTIA said that moving forward with the proposals to change the 3.5 GHz rules can be done without delaying access to the 3.5 GHz band or undermining the GAA use. “These targeted changes would improve the novel three-tier framework by increasing incentives for investment in PALs without affecting GAA access to the CBRS band or changing the flexible nature of the CBRS framework,” CTIA said.