CBRS band inches closer to deployment

cell phone stadium (Pixabay)
Stadiums represent one of the venues where 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum is expected to be applicable. (Pixabay)

The FCC moved a step closer to making the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) band commercially operational with the release of a public notice (PDF) establishing procedures and deadlines for filing initial Spectrum Access System (SAS) commercial deployment proposals.

The FCC already conditionally approved a first wave of SAS administrators, which includes Google, Federated Wireless, CommScope, Amdocs, Key Bridge and Sony. But more tests need to be conducted before everything can get up and running. Plus, the FCC is still reviewing final rules for the band.

To be sure, the FCC and a lot of stakeholders want to see the final rules for CBRS get passed. The problem is, a lot of diverse communities want access to it. Wireless operators want to use it for 5G. WISPs, industrial IoT players and others want smaller licensed areas that they can surgically target and afford at auction.

However, the General Authorized Access (GAA) portion of the band, as opposed to the Priority Access Licenses (PALs), is generally expected to be ready sooner, possibly before the end of the year.

Federated Wireless, for one, expects CBRS services to be launched this year. “We applaud the FCC, DoD and NTIA for taking this innovative approach towards commercialization,” said Iyad Tarazi, president and CEO, Federated Wireless, in a statement provided to FierceWirelessTech. “The entire ecosystem is poised to begin commercial operation under the rules for General Authorized Access, and the new notice on Initial Commercial Deployment confirms that CBRS services can be launched this year. Federated Wireless is working with several operators and OEMs and will submit a thorough proposal in response to this public notice.”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly suggested in his testimony before a July 25 U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing that the FCC was getting closer to making the 3.5 GHz band operational for licensed and unlicensed use. “Fortunately, the review to ensure that the 3.5 GHz licensing structure is attractive to as many users and use cases as possible and the work on the databases that will enable maximum use of 3.5 GHz is wrapping up,” he told lawmakers, according to written testimony (PDF).

The Wireless Innovation Forum (WinnForum) in May announced the release of the first SAS software test harness for testing SASs for conformance to the commission’s rules and a CBRS software test harness for devices, referred to as CBSDs. The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, NTIA’s research and development arm, started verification and validation of the SAS software test harness on May 29 using the current iteration of several SAS operational models provided by individual SAS administrators.

Lab testing of SASs prior to commercial deployment is part of the testing requirement described in the 3.5 GHz First Report & Order and it will help the commission determine how SASs will perform in a variety of operational scenarios, according to the public notice.

RELATED: Google, Federated and more discuss SAS field trials for CBRS

The CBRS Alliance also announced that eight global labs have achieved approval to conduct testing for OnGo certification. OnGo access points from several member companies already have started the testing process and are expected to achieve OnGo certification within the coming weeks.

The CBRS band is the result of a novel scheme in the U.S. because it involves protecting incumbent users—mostly government radar systems like those used by Navy ships—the whereabouts of which are classified. But the SAS administrators need to know where they are in order to give them priority to the spectrum. Other portions of the spectrum are shared by other users, which get different levels of priority.