While existing operators may still be evaluating how they want to use 3.5 GHz spectrum, vendors like Huawei said they’re ready to supply the gear when and where it’s needed.
Huawei has supplied a 3.65 GHz fixed wireless product in the U.S. for quite some time, and worldwide it is a leading TD-LTE provider of 3.5 GHz solutions, according to George Reed, SVP of Solutions & Marketing and MSO Accounts at Huawei Technologies USA.
While security concerns with China have effectively shut Huawei out of network infrastructure contracts with Tier 1 operators in the U.S., it has been a longtime supplier of network gear to smaller U.S. operators. Operators around the world, including China and Japan, are using 3.5 GHz spectrum as well.
The FCC earlier this year finalized the regulatory structure for 3.5 GHz, which it called the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, making 150 megahertz of spectrum available for a variety of uses. The FCC is in the process of reviewing applications for entities that want to serve as Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators and Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) providers. It continues to work with the Department of Defense as well to protect incumbent government radar systems.
Tier 2 and 3 operators in the U.S. are looking at 3.5 GHz, but they’re also discouraged by the short three-year license terms offered to Priority Access Licensees (PALs), according to Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) President and CEO Steve Berry. There’s also still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the rules for 3.5 GHz, he noted.
Another source of spectrum operators are counting on will be from the 600 MHz incentive auction that is ongoing. But given the time it takes to complete that auction and the time it will take to clear the spectrum from broadcasters, it's possible the 3.5 GHz ecosystem will be ready before 600 MHz.
Besides network gear, operators will need to be assured of device compatibility. Last year, Huawei released what it described as the world’s first 3.5 GHz LTE-A device. At the time, it said the device, supporting two-carrier aggregation with total downlink speeds of over 220 Mbps, represented the end-to-end commercialization of LTE-A in the 3.5 GHz band.
The 3.5 GHz spectrum is defined by 3GPP as TDD band 42 and band 43 with 400 MHz of bandwidth from 3400~3800 MHz. It was traditionally more popular outside the United States and was referred to as Wireless Local Loop (WLL).
This past summer, Huawei and China Mobile jointly announced the inaugural demonstration of the first end-to-end TD-LTE system operating over the 3.3 GHz to 3.4 GHz frequency band. A demonstration system in Shanghai was developed with the integration of Huawei's newly modified commercial 3.5 GHz TD-LTE products, which currently are deployed worldwide.
Last month, Google asked the FCC for permission to conduct experiments in the 3.5 GHz band in up to 24 U.S. areas, including San Francisco, Boulder, Colorado and Provo, Utah. That application was still pending as of this morning.