The industry is getting close to commercial liftoff in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more tests, particularly when it comes to CBRS handsets.
Case in point: Verizon was just granted authority by the FCC to conduct yearlong CBRS tests in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, using multiple handsets.
Verizon explained in the application that it’s working with partner companies to develop equipment that will use LTE technologies and CBRS spectrum, also known as Band 48, based on 3GPP terminology. The tests are evaluating both indoor and outdoor propagation characteristics, as well as end-to-end CBRS infrastructure and interband carrier aggregation.
The authorization follows a similar application for tests in these two markets that was granted earlier this year and expired Oct. 31. In May, Verizon announced that it had successfully tested LTE over CBRS on a live commercial network in Florida, partnering with Federated Wireless, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies.
Currently, Verizon and several mobile device partner companies are planning to conduct tests with an aggregate of no more than 95 mobile devices to support the Florida field trial testing. Typically, only one mobile device partner will be participating in the tests at any given point in time using 15 to 30 mobile devices, according to Verizon. The names of the device providers were not included.
Some of the tests with mobile stations will be using CBRS spectrum only, but the majority of the tests will include mobile and base stations with LTE transmitters that operate on 3GPP Band 2, or 3GPP Band 4, in carrier aggregation mode, in both downlink and uplink, with Band 48.
Verizon reiterated that the mobile devices in these tests will only be used by test engineers, either from Verizon or one of the mobile device partners; they’re not going to be released to Verizon customers or consumers.
Separately, Verizon has filed with the FCC for Special Temporary Authority to conduct CBRS trials in Miami, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, as well as in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Pasadena in California and Charlotte and Huntersville in North Carolina. Those tests are pending and are to evaluate radio path loss characteristics for outdoor installations. They would use the Tortoise transmitter system from Berkeley Varitronics.
Both industry and government have been working to get the CBRS ready for commercial launch using the General Authorized Access (GAA) portion of the band, which can be used much earlier than the Priority Access License portion of the band. Just a couple of weeks ago, the FCC adopted changes to the rules governing the licensed portion of the band, increasing the license areas from census tracts to counties and extending license terms to 10 years.
Wireless carriers had sought changes to the rules, in part because things had changed since they were initially adopted in 2015 under the prior administration, in part because many other regions in the world were starting to earmark 3.5 GHz for 5G.
But getting CBRS widely available in smartphones remains an issue, and that’s one of the reasons AT&T’s first go-to-market strategy involves using GAA CBRS to offer a fixed wireless service in rural areas the latter part of next year.
Last month, Verizon’s VP of technology planning and development, Bill Stone, said that Verizon is ready to deploy 3.5 GHz CBRS services now, and it expects to initially use the band for outdoor coverage. But he doesn’t expect CBRS devices to begin to hit the market until next year.