T-Mobile wants to see changes to the rules for the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) band, but that isn’t stopping the “uncarrier” from pursuing tests in the band to better understand propagation characteristics.
The operator applied for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to conduct 3550-3700 MHz band tests using equipment from Ericsson and Nokia. The application calls for testing four different units of prototype equipment in outdoor and indoor settings prior to equipment certification. Locations include Las Vegas, Dallas and Richardson, Texas.
The prototype equipment will use 20 megahertz of bandwidth and an emission designator of 20MOW7W. The modulation technique is LTE-TDD using digital OFDM, QPSK, 16 QAM and 64 QAM.
Interestingly, according to the FCC database, T-Mobile applied for similar permission earlier this year to conduct 3.5 GHz tests in Bellevue and Bothell in Washington state using Nokia prototype equipment, but that application was dismissed because the proposed locations were within the exclusion zone and the Navy could not approve it.
T-Mobile has made no secret of its interest in 3.5 GHz on the road to 5G. The company petitioned the FCC in June to tweak the rules so that the Priority Access Licenses (PALs) would be awarded on 10-year terms “with renewal expectancy” and make the licensed areas larger than the current proposed census tracts. It also called for maximizing the utility of the 3.5 GHz band for 5G applications and just plain making the U.S. 3.5 GHz band more competitive in the race to 5G.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said during the company’s second-quarter conference call that the 3.5-4 GHz range is the most formative block of spectrum emerging globally for 5G.
The CBRS band was a popular topic at last week’s Mobile World Congress Americas in San Francisco, where leaders discussed the vast amount of progress made in establishing the ecosystem.
Google has been actively developing its Spectrum Access System (SAS) business for the band and expects to be a major player in the space. Federated Wireless is also in the SAS business and last week announced the availability of its Spectrum Controller and the closing of a $42 million Series B round of funding with investments from Charter Communications, American Tower, Arris International and GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.
CBRS stakeholders aren’t waiting for the FCC to revise the rules, many of which are directed at the PAL portion of the system. They’re moving ahead on the General Authorized Access (GAA) part of the band, and those deployments could come at the end of the first quarter or early second quarter next year. FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has indicated there could be a notice of proposed rulemaking related to CBRS this fall and an order by Jan. 1 or soon thereafter.