CBRS Alliance, WISPA team up to advance 3.5 GHz ecosystem

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WISPA's membership includes smaller WISPs that serve mainly rural areas.

It’s full steam ahead for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) and the CBRS Alliance. The two signed an agreement to cooperate closely in the advancement of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum band, even though some of their members were on opposite sides of the fence ahead of proposed new 3.5 GHz rules.

Under their agreement, the organizations will work together to address technical challenges and business opportunities in the 3550-3700 MHz band. Activities under consideration include collaboration on standards, testing and certification of equipment and holding joint workshops and meetings. The two groups also plan to share roadmaps and planning schedules, as well as nominate members to sit on committees of mutual interest.

The whole idea is to reduce redundant efforts, create better end products and accelerate commercialization of the CBRS band.

"Members of WISPA and many other businesses and nonprofit organizations are making substantial investments in this band, and are strongly committed to further commercialization," said WISPA President Chuck Hogg in a press release. "The FCC's current policy framework is an excellent opportunity to bring state-of-the-art broadband services to unserved and under-served parts of America."

RELATED: CTIA applauds FCC move on 3.5 GHz band; WISPA calls it a step backward for rural broadband

"More than 50 companies from a broad range of wireless industry sectors have joined the CBRS band," said Michael Peeters, president of the CBRS Alliance and head of innovation portfolio management at Nokia, in the release "We're looking forward to exploring ways to coordinate our common interests in the CBRS band and maximize cooperation on services offered both by members of the Alliance and WISPA."

The CBRS Alliance has been steadily growing since it was founded by six companies (Federated Wireless, Google, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm and Ruckus Wireless) back in August 2016. Ericsson has since joined as a sponsor member, and all four of the biggest U.S. operators are members. WISPA, in contrast, has more than 800 members that include smaller WISPs that serve mainly rural or less populated areas.

CTIA is a board member of the CBRS Alliance and was pleased that the FCC voted last month to seek changes in the 3.5 GHz band rules—changes that WISPA had opposed in part because its members had already made significant investments in the band based on rules that were initially agreed upon about two years ago.

At the time of the vote, Hogg said WISPA was very disappointed that the FCC was prioritizing the “wants” of the mobile industry over the “needs” of rural Americans, but he also indicated WISPA members are already investing in the band, so the deal with the CBRS Alliance isn’t totally out of the blue.