WISPA: 5G not synonymous with mobile wireless

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Some 182 fixed wireless broadband providers serving hard-to-reach areas are rallying to urge the FCC to keep some version of the census tract-sized license areas for CBRS. (Pixabay)

The fixed wireless community is determined to keep census tract-sized licenses in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, sending a letter to the FCC signed by 182 fixed wireless broadband providers urging it to do just that.

Among the notable signatories is the wireless ISP that serves FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s hometown: Wave Wireless of Parsons, Kansas. Pai, a big supporter of broadband in rural areas, has even referenced Wave Wireless in public statements as a mainstay in his hometown and a service provider to his parents.

In a new blog, Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA) President and CEO Claude Aiken made the argument that “5G is not synonymous with mobile wireless,” and that “’winning the race to 5G’ does not mean we need to let the most powerful companies in the mobile wireless industry define the rules of the road.”

RELATED: WISPA takes to Twitter to make CBRS arguments

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WISPA’s latest arguments are not new but are another indication that the industry still hasn’t reached a broad consensus. Larger commercial wireless operators want larger licensed areas, or Priority Access Licenses (PALs), which they argue are needed for global 5G harmony. The smaller fixed wireless players and Industrial IoT companies want smaller licensed areas that better fit their requirements.

“We reluctantly acknowledge that the rules are likely to be changed, that we will no longer have access to seven census tract PALs,” the fixed broadband providers told the FCC. “But there is no reason why, out of those seven PALs, that the FCC cannot retain at least two census tract PALs in rural areas to facilitate broadband deployment in the areas where we live and work.”

The commission approved rules for CBRS in 2015, but neither FCC Chairman Ajit Pai nor fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly were fully on board at that time. After the change in administration, Pai’s commission agreed to review the rules, which CTIA and T-Mobile had asked for. Commissioner O’Rielly in particular has been working on mid-band spectrum issues and told reporters earlier this month that he is eager to get something on the calendar.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said after the same open meeting that the original plans for 3.5 GHz were wildly innovative, and no one else in the world had done anything like the hierarchy of rights that the FCC created for the band. The U.S. Department of Defense had to sign off on the strategy of protecting incumbent government radar users while opening up the band for dynamic spectrum sharing.

WISPA contended that if the FCC adopts CTIA’s approach to CBRS spectrum, fewer bidders will participate in auctions and fewer areas will be served with less competition. CTIA is lobbying for much larger geographic license sizes it said are necessary to make the U.S. competitive in the race to 5G.