Federated Wireless, Charter pitch power of CBRS

Federated Wireless and Charter Communications are keeping the vibes positive for Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) with recent visits to the offices of FCC commissioners.

Last week, Federated and Charter representatives met with Greg Watson, policy advisor to Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr, to talk about the benefits of spectrum sharing. The 3.5 GHz CBRS band is the first real demonstration of a formal spectrum sharing model in the U.S, with three tiers of protections.

Federated Wireless is a Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrator for the CBRS band. Charter, which picked up CBRS Priority Access Licenses (PALs) in the 2020 auction, is an investor in Federated, having participated in its Series B round in 2017.

In the meeting with Carr’s office, they discussed how the CBRS spectrum sharing model “facilitates the growth of mobile competition and has enabled new entrants into the market, many of whom are using the band to develop their own private networks for uses such as industrial automation, artificial intelligence and predictive maintenance,” the companies wrote in an ex parte filing.

These deployments are happening in environments ranging from warehouses, ports, factories, airports and office buildings, in both rural and densely populated areas, they said.

According to Jennifer McCarthy, VP of Legal Advocacy at Federated Wireless, they’ve previously had numerous discussions with the offices of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and fellow Democrat Commissioner Geoffrey Starks about the benefits of the CBRS sharing framework.   

A similar message was delivered at the office of Commissioner Nathan Simington, a Republican, and his wireless advisor, Erin Boone, during a meeting last month. That was around the same time that CTIA released a report bashing CBRS as a model for future spectrum allocations.

CTIA clarifies something 

In a letter to FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator Alan Davidson this week, CTIA mostly delivered a familiar message talking up the benefits of exclusive-use licensing when it comes to spectrum. Big carriers like the certainty that comes with licensed spectrum.

But it also said it’s not always anti-CBRS.

“To be clear, the wireless industry is not, as some CBRS proponents claim, arguing that all spectrum must be exclusive-use licensed spectrum,” CTIA wrote. “We support innovative uses of spectrum where it is appropriate and makes sense given technical and operational constraints. In fact, CTIA and the wireless industry have worked to support the CBRS ecosystem.”

CTIA said that back when CBRS was first being commercialized, it filled a void to act as a certifying body for CBRS devices and was prepared to act as a sharing database administrator due to an initial lack of interest, although those plans changed. 

Yet, at the same time, “we believe future spectrum policy in the United States should not default to complex spectrum sharing regimes, and the weight of the evidence continues to show that smart domestic spectrum policy should be built upon robust access to exclusive-use, licensed spectrum particularly given the significant deficit today.”

Charter & CBRS

During an investor meeting Tuesday, Charter Communications Product and Technology President Rich DiGeronimo said Charter launched a commercial-grade employee trial of its CBRS network in one of its largest markets this year. The trial is using 20 MHz of CBRS PALs and General Authorized Access (GAA), the unlicensed version of CBRS.

He said they’re in the process of evaluating the user experience and the amount of traffic that stays on the 5G CBRS hybrid mobile network. Based on that evaluation, they’ll determine the number, locations and pace to deploy in 2024 and beyond.

Brought together, all methods of Charter’s connectivity – fixed broadband, Wi-Fi and mobile – represent a new class of connectivity, which they’re calling “Gig-powered wireless,” he said, boasting "this new class of connectivity is unmatched.” 

Currently, 85% of traffic on a Spectrum Mobile phone is over Wi-Fi, and the rest is over the cellular network. (Charter has an MVNO agreement with Verizon.) The intention is to enable more mobile traffic to traverse Charter’s own network.