Momentum around the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) continues to build as leaders in the ecosystem, including Alphabet’s Access Group and Nokia, paid separate visits to the FCC last week in efforts to keep the train moving.
Representatives of Access Group and Google Fiber met with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s legal advisor, Erin McGrath, on May 8 to discuss the “substantial commercial interest” in using both PAL (Priority Access Licenses) and GAA (General Authorized Access) channels to deliver LTE services in the 3.5 GHz band, according to an ex parte filing.
Potential service providers are working aggressively to initiate commercial operations based on the rules that the FCC adopted, they said, and described the work of the Wireless Innovation Forum (WinnForum), with participation by more than 47 companies.
“We recommended that the Commission promote certainty and support the work and investment made by industry thus far by maintaining the CBRS regulatory framework,” they said. “We further recommended that the FCC can do so while considering discrete changes to PAL rules, but that wholesale changes would undermine investment and deployment in the 3.5 GHz band.”
Meanwhile, the CBRS Alliance is growing fast and now has 55 members, a spokesperson confirmed. That's up from 47 members just a few weeks ago.
Separately, Nokia executives held four separate meetings with advisors to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, as well as with Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and his legal advisor, in addition to staff from the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, International Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology.
The Nokia representatives talked about Nokia’s substantial efforts to make innovative wireless services a reality in the 3.5 GHz band and the potential timeline for deployment. Nokia also stressed the importance of mobile carriers obtaining the certainty required for large-scale investment, which will “drive the device ecosystem in the 3.5 GHz band,” according to an ex parte filing.
The meetings are noteworthy given they come after T-Mobile USA’s top executives recently met with Chairman Pai, as well as Commissioners O’Rielly and Clyburn and their legal advisors, to urge the FCC to revise the existing 3.5 GHz framework because it doesn’t align with international use of the band for 5G and because the current structure “will not drive investment.”
Other companies are worried about the prospect of changes to the rules when they’re already far into building the ecosystem and they say any restricting of the CBRS rules should be done in a way that doesn’t delay commercial availability of the band.
CBRS proponents say the band, as structured, will allow large venues such as concert halls, sports arenas, enterprises, theme parks, shopping malls, hotels and conference centers to easily deploy private LTE networks without spending billions to lease spectrum.
An auction has yet to be set for the licensed use for the band in the U.S., but according to documents Nokia submitted to the FCC, the currently industry view expects a PAL auction the second half of 2018.