The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that Google, CommScope, Federated Wireless and Sony have been certified to operate as Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators in the 3.5 GHz band, paving the way for full commercial operations in the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) band.
The certification comes after the FCC last year approved these same SAS administrators for initial commercial deployments (ICD), although Amdocs also was approved for ICD and isn’t on this week’s list, which allows for full commercial use of the CBRS band.
An Amdocs representative provided the following statement to Fierce: "We are still working towards full approval from the FCC to be a commercial SAS administrator. We are still in the Initial Commercial Deployment (ICD) phase and our process will complete by end of February."
Long time coming
The CBRS proceeding has been years in the making, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai thanked Commissioner Mike O’Rielly for his leadership throughout the proceeding, as well as FCC staff and those in the private sector that worked to make it happen. “As with all of our efforts to execute on the 5G FAST plan, we’re pushing to get next-generation wireless services deployed in the 3.5 GHz band as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Pai said.
Federated Wireless CEO Iyad Tarazi said the CBRS industry has reached another significant milestone with the FCC’s approval for full commercial deployment.
“With more than 25 customers offering commercial services and another 50 in development, Federated Wireless is extremely pleased with the momentum the market has achieved since ICD in September, and we are eager to continue driving the next wave of services including private 5G,” Tarazi said in a statement. “2020 will be an extremely active year for all of us who have worked so hard to bring the promise of CBRS to reality, and we are fully committed to working closely with all of the customer segments that stand to benefit from the new business and service models being developed and deployed today.”
The CBRS band in the U.S. is unique in that it is comprised of a three-tiered strategy that allows commercial use of 3.5 GHz spectrum when incumbent federal users are not using it. Sensors along the coast lines determine when it’s being used by Navy ships, but there are vast regions between the coasts where no federal radar users exist. Early in the process, some called it an “experiment” because it hadn’t been done before.
The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) is hopeful that other forms of sharing will be pursued in other bands.
“Today, after years of development, full commercial deployment of CBRS shared spectrum is a real thing, not a dream. Thanks to all for making that happen. In particular, the FCC must be commended, too, for shepherding the process along, and seeing the immense promise that the CBRS sharing model can and will bring in our spectrum-constrained world. The ‘CBRS experiment’ works, its ‘thesis’ proven,” said Louis Peraertz, VP of Policy for WISPA, in a statement.
“We know that if it works in this complex band, other forms of sharing—such as in the C-Band, 5.9 GHz and 6 GHz bands—can and should go forward,” added Peraertz, who was a legal adviser to former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “We cannot wait to see what it will do for the band and for other spectrum, as it fosters the development of an innovative solutions ecosystem, inspires new wireless business models, and delivers a new generation of consumer products and services here and across the globe.”
The FCC consulted with the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as part of the SAS certification process. Each SAS administrator gets authorization for commercial use for a five-year term.
Some analysts have speculated that if the U.S. gets it right with CBRS, other countries may adopt similar spectrum sharing schemes.
Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Program at New America, said the FCC's announcement on Monday is huge news because it represents the first time a telecom regulator has implemented truly dynamic spectrum sharing.
"CBRS should have even more impact because the incumbent service is U.S. Navy radar. If the U.S. military is now comfortable with dynamic sharing, successful implementation of CBRS should accelerate the opening of additional underutilized bands for shared access both here and globally in the years to come," he said in a statement. "We believe CBRS will be as consequential as the FCC’s innovative authorization of unlicensed spectrum and Wi-Fi two decades ago. After demonstrating success, the rest of the world followed suit.”
Currently, the General Authorized Access (GAA), or unlicensed, portion of the band is open for business. The auction of Priority Access Licenses (PALs) is scheduled to start June 25, 2020.