Vistabeam pursues trial of 3.5 GHz in Nebraska and Wyoming

Nebraska (pixabay)
Vistabeam provides broadband service to about 4,000 customers in rural areas of Nebraska.

Inventive Wireless of Nebraska, doing business as Vistabeam, is the latest example of a WISP that wants to use 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum to conduct an experiment with LTE.

Vistabeam is asking the FCC for an experimental license so that it can test LTE equipment manufactured by Telrad and Baicells. The purpose is to get a better understanding of the benefits, challenges and costs associated with near-term deployment of LTE equipment in the 3650-3700 MHz band and to compare performance and capabilities of the two manufacturers’ equipment and technology. The tests would take place in Nebraska and Wyoming.

The company holds a nationwide non-exclusive 3650-3700 MHz service license and uses it to provide last-mile fixed broadband service to customers throughout a 45,000-square-mile area of Nebraska, southeastern Wyoming and northeastern Colorado. It currently provides broadband service to about 4,000 customers in rural areas of Nebraska.

Assuming the trial is successful, Vistabeam expects to use a combination of Priority Access Licenses (PALs) and General Authorized Access “license by rule” spectrum across the entire 150 megahertz of 3550-3700 MHz spectrum.

“As the experiment develops, Vistabeam may submit additional applications to modify and expand its areas of operation to include new locations,” the company told the FCC. “These areas include significant rural areas where consumers lack choice in broadband access.”

Vistabeam said that it believes the CBRS band and the ongoing development of the Spectrum Access System and Environmental Sensing Capabilities represent positive change in spectrum management policy and will eventually result in “extremely efficient and widespread use of this 150 megahertz of spectrum” for both small cell technologies for mobile wireless broadband and higher power technologies for fixed wireless broadband in rural and underserved locations.

RELATED: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile score big win with FCC's proposed CBRS rules

Last month, the FCC voted to seek comment on proposed changes to the 3.5 GHz CBRS rules, including longer PAL license terms, renewability, larger geographic license areas and auction methodology. The changes sparked controversy because the commission initially voted on rules two years ago and affirmed them last year, and a lot of companies pursued business plans and made investments based on those rules.

RELATED: CTIA applauds FCC move on 3.5 GHz band; WISPA calls it a step backward for rural broadband

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), of which Vistabeam is a member, said it would continue as active participants in the proceeding but it wasn’t happy with how the vote went. WISPA supports using census tracts for PALs and said shifting to larger geographic areas such as Partial Economic Areas creates an artificial restriction that inherently benefits big mobile carriers to the detriment of others.