CTIA, T-Mobile recap reasons for larger 3.5 GHz license areas

Rural (Pixabay)
WISPs are among those that want small license areas for CBRS while CTIA and its members seek larger geographic areas. (Pixabay)

As the 3.5 GHz ecosystem in the U.S. prepares for a full-blown takeoff, CTIA and T-Mobile are repeating their calls for larger licensed areas and 10-year license terms.

Last week on separate occasions, T-Mobile and CTIA representatives met with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s legal advisor, Erin McGrath, to discuss the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) proceeding. Both the “uncarrier” and the association last year filed petitions with the FCC requesting that it revisit the 3.5 GHz rules that were originally passed in 2015.

Their meetings with O’Rielly’s team are notable given that he’s been leading the charge to revise the rules and has made recommendations to Chairman Ajit Pai. It’s still not clear when the full commission will vote on revisions, but progress continues to be made toward commercial deployments using the spectrum.

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Similar to its earlier arguments, CTIA argues that the current licensing scheme for CBRS, with 74,000 separate license areas based on census tracts and an average population of 4,400 per area, is significantly smaller than the license areas used for comparable spectrum in the rest of the world.

It also said such a system would create administrative complexity for the FCC and ultimately lead to delays in deployment.

RELATED: WISPA takes to Twitter to make CBRS arguments

Those on the other side of the debate—including wireless internet service providers (WISPs)—argue that an auction based on census tract licensing is not going to be overly burdensome.

Google, General Electric and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association recently met (PDF) with FCC staff to discuss issues related to competitive bidding for Priority Access Licenses (PALs). Their conversation focused on auction design techniques that would enable a successful auction among a large number of bidders with diverse business models.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, an independent office within the Small Business Administration, told the FCC (PDF) that it’s concerned that changes to the license size could foreclose competition and result in decreased service in rural areas.

The Office of Advocacy explained that it had spoken with small WISPs that are concerned the FCC’s proposal to define the geographic license areas based on partial economic areas instead of the small census tracts may foreclose the use of 3.5 GHz spectrum by anyone other than the large mobile carriers.

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology released a public notice (PDF) on Aug. 10 seeking comment on the results of rule changes related to the CBRS 3.5 GHz band, with comments due Sept. 10 and replies due Sept. 26.

Congress directed the FCC to submit a report no later than Nov. 2 containing an analysis of the results of the 2015 rule changes related to frequencies between 3550 MHz and 3650 MHz and an analysis of proposals to identify additional spectrum bands that can be shared between incumbent uses and new licensed and unlicensed services.  

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