Google, Federated and more discuss SAS field trials for CBRS

Stakeholders are still debating the framework for CBRS licenses. (Pixabay)

In yet another sign that the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band is getting closer to launching, representatives of six conditionally approved Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators met with regulators to discuss potential SAS field testing scenarios.

Google, Federated Wireless, Sony, Key Bridge, CommScope and Amdocs each sent representatives to meet with the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Defense to discuss methods by which field trials might be conducted.

The SAS administrators also underscored the importance of achieving, as expeditiously as possible, commercial SAS service within the commission’s framework for SAS certification, according to an ex parte filing (PDF).

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RELATED: CommScope running in SAS pack dominated by Google, Federated Wireless

The meeting comes as the industry strives to reach a compromise about how things will work in the CBRS 3.5 GHz band, although most of the debate centers on the Priority Access License (PAL) portion of the band; the General Authorized Access (GAA) portion is believed to be largely unchanged, so work in that area is expected to commence before the PALs.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who has led efforts in the band for the commission, acknowledged during a press conference after the commission's open meeting last week that matters involving differences of opinion are shrinking.

“I think … the biggest issue out there is still the geographic license size,” and they’re trying to work through those differences and see if they can find commonality. “My goal is to provide the chairman recommendations as soon as possible and then go from there,” O'Rielly said. “We’d like to expeditiously make the spectrum available in a thoughtful way so we’re trying to work through the issues as fast as we can,” but it is more important to work through them as thoughtfully as possible.

Generally speaking, larger carriers prefer bigger geographic licensed areas while smaller operators and fixed wireless service providers favor smaller areas. CTIA and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) recently came together to propose a compromise that involves a combination of Metropolitan Statistical Area-based and county-based PAL licensing.

CTIA and CCA said their compromise would reduce the more than 74,000 license areas and more than 500,000 licenses to roughly 2,700 license areas and 19,000 licenses—far more manageable numbers than before and dramatically reducing auction complexity for both the commission and bidders.

RELATED: CTIA, CCA submit compromise proposal on 3.5 GHz band

However, the CBRS Coalition argues that its approach strikes the best balance for all the stakeholders, including enterprise. It aims to allow entities with business plans involved in geographically limited facilities and customer bases an opportunity to compete for PALs at auction while also limiting the burden of aggregating small census tracts for mid-to-large carriers that seek to cover wider areas.

The CBRS Coalition recently told the commission that its diverse set of members, which includes General Electric (GE), the Port of Los Angeles, utilities and more, have devoted significant time and resources to a compromise effort over the past three months and they’ve come up with a framework that will accommodate the needs of all stakeholders in the 3.5 GHz band.

Specifically, they’re calling for there to be five county-based CBRS PALs available in every U.S. county for auction; two census-tract-based PALS in every census tract in every U.S. county for auction; license terms for PALs of seven years; and PALs to be renewable based on performance criteria.

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