AT&T asks for 6-month license to conduct tests at 3.5 GHz

AT&T CBRS
AT&T discussed its plans for CBRS during Mobile World Congress Americas in September. (FierceWireless)

AT&T filed the paperwork with the FCC for an experimental license to conduct fixed and mobile tests using various gear in the 3.5 GHz band at several sites in the Redmond, Washington, area.

The operator explained that the testing and expected experimental equipment would support potential fixed wireless applications, including video and data transmissions. The application calls for 10 experimental units to be used from multiple manufacturers but doesn’t name the suppliers.

AT&T would like to start the experimental operations on Dec. 15, with an end date of June 14, 2019.

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That AT&T is conducting more 3.5 GHz tests isn’t surprising given that it has said it plans to start testing Citizens Broadband Radio Service equipment in its own labs early next year and expects to roll out commercial CBRS technology in U.S. cities starting in late 2019. AT&T announced in September that it would be using gear from Samsung and Spectrum Access Sharing administration services from CommScope.

RELATED: AT&T selects Samsung, CommScope for CBRS network deployment

On Tuesday, the FCC voted 3-1 to adopt changes to the rules governing the licensed portion of the CBRS band, increasing the license areas from census tracts to counties and extending license terms to 10 years. Wireless carriers had sought changes to the rules, which were first adopted in 2015 under the previous administration, so that they would be more favorable to 5G and their own investments.

Midband spectrum has increasingly been the focus of industry lobbying efforts as other countries have deemed it essential to 5G, with greater economies of scale expected for everybody. U.S. wireless carriers have said that while the 3.5 GHz band is a good start to making midband spectrum available for licensed use, the amount of spectrum in the band is limited and technical restrictions impede its utility, which is why they're pushing to make as much of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band available as soon as possible.

Also known as the C-band, the 3.7-4.2 GHz band is the subject of a C-Band Alliance plan to clear more spectrum for mobile and 5G uses. The C-Band Alliance announced on Oct. 22 that up to 200 MHz of C-band downlink spectrum could be cleared, depending on demand—more than the previous amount, which was 100 MHz under a proposal earlier this year from Intel, Intelsat and SES.

The C-Band Alliance was formed by satellite service operators Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat, and the group says its proposal is the only one that balances the needs to protect the C-band user community, which includes TV and radio programming distribution, with the need for rapid 5G deployment across the U.S.

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