Dish sets sights on high power CBRS tests

Dish Wireless is asking the FCC for permission to conduct field experiments to evaluate high power Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) operations and its impact on current operations in the band.

The application is notable given that Dish was the second largest bidder in the CBRS auction in 2020 and has been lobbying for a higher power level for the band. Opponents to increasing the power level include T-Mobile, Charter Communications and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA).

Dish’s application for special temporary authority, known as an STA, says the 3.5 GHz tests would be conducted in the Boulder, Colorado, area, to evaluate coverage, throughput and spectral efficiency. The requested period of operation is from November 1 through February 28, 2023. 

The company’s already received a vote of confidence in the form of a letter from the Boulder office of the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS), the research and engineering arm of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The NTIA/ITS Boulder Laboratory said it’s engaged in a technical study with Dish.

If approved, the tests also would evaluate the impact to current General Authorized Access (GAA) and Priority Access License (PAL) operations if the in-band emission requirement of -25 dBm/MHz is waived to align with the adjacent C-band, or 3.7 GHz, according to the application.  

During a keynote at the Wireless Industry Association (WIA) Connect(X) trade show in Denver in May, Dish EVP/Network Development Dave Mayo, a former T-Mobile executive, said one of the things Dish would like to see are rule changes so that CBRS can operate at a higher power level.

Dish, T-Mobile clash on this one

Dish and T-Mobile have had their share of disputes, such as the timing of the shutdown of Sprint’s CDMA network. A new MVNO agreement between the two seems to have settled things down. During Dish’s second-quarter earnings call earlier this month, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen said what was once an unhealthy relationship has turned healthy.

One area where they remain on opposite sides of the fence is over power levels in the CBRS band. T-Mobile has argued that increasing the power levels permitted for the CBRS band would fundamentally change the nature of CBRS. T-Mobile is also sitting on a gold mine of mid-band 2.5 GHz spectrum; it doesn’t need the 3.5 GHz spectrum in the same way as Dish.

In a filing with the FCC last month, Dish reiterated the benefits of raising the maximum authorized power levels in the CBRS band, saying it would provide carriers and consumers “enormous benefit” by enabling more efficient use of the spectrum, lowering the costs of deployment and ensuring that the U.S. has mid-band spectrum allocations that are comparable to the large 5G frequency bands available in most of Europe and the rest of the world, where 3.5 GHz is widely deployed for 5G.

Notably, Dish said, “this can be achieved without harming the fair and dynamic usage of the spectrum for GAA, incumbents and Cat A/B CBSDs,” urging the agency to initiate a rulemaking to enable parties to weigh in on this proposal.