Verizon’s news today that it has demonstrated mobile wireless service using LTE Advanced carrier aggregation in the CBRS spectrum band ups the ante on large mobile carriers’ efforts to establish new rules for that spectrum band – rules that opponents say would benefit the large carriers to the detriment of smaller, more rural carriers. The Verizon CBRS demo successfully used a system from Federated Wireless to enable the service to operate within the FCC’s spectrum sharing framework for the CBRS band, the company said.

CBRS Controversy
In 2015 the FCC voted to free up spectrum in the 3550-3700 MHz band, now known as the CBRS band or Band 48, on a shared basis with existing users. Plans currently call for three types of users for the band, including incumbent military users, priority access licensees (PALs) and unlicensed users. Plans currently call for licenses for PAL users to be issued on a census tract basis for a period of three years – a plan that was welcomed by small, largely rural, wireless internet service providers who anticipate being able to afford licenses offered under those terms. The plan also was intended to enable large carriers to obtain PAL licensees for small cell deployments in urban areas.

In a filing with the FCC  several weeks ago, however, CTIA – The Wireless Association proposed alternative rules for CBRS-band PALs.  The association, which represents large national wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, has proposed that licenses should be offered for 10 years on a larger partial economic area (PEA) basis – a recommendation opposed by the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association.

At least one FCC commissioner – Michael O’Rielly – has hinted that he supports the 10-year PEA license plan. In a recent blog post, he noted that “improving the PALS to make them more functional and usable is already in the works.” The comment came in a blog post focused primarily on the adjacent 3700-4200 MHz band – one of several bands that the FCC is exploring making available for 5G wireless offerings. In the blog post, O’Rielly advocated auctioning the entire 3700-4200 MHz band on the grounds that doing so, in combination with PALS changes for the CBRS band, might create a larger swath of spectrum for 5G.

That idea also is likely to be unpopular with WISPs or other members of the Broadband Access Coalition, which has asked the FCC to make the 3700-4200 MHz band available for fixed wireless use on a shared basis with incumbent licensees who use the spectrum for satellite distribution of cable television. (One thing virtually everyone agrees on is that those users have more spectrum than they need.)

In his blog post, O’Rielly suggested reallocating the 6 GHz band for unlicensed devices. But WISPs and the Broadband Access Coalition may not view that as a suitable alternative because propagation is not as good at higher frequencies as it is in lower-frequency bands.

An executive with key Broadband Access Coalition member Mimosa Networks said in an email to Telecompetitor that “6 GHz is the most crowded and still incredibly heavily utilized microwave PTP band, so generally it’s been difficult to introduce additional services into the band, even new PTP links.” As such it would be a poor substitute for the 3700-4200 MHz band, said Jaime Fink, co-founder and chief product officer for Mimosa, a developer of broadband wireless equipment.

Verizon CBRS Demo
The Verizon CBRS demo was supported by Ericsson and Qualcomm, today’s press release noted. The demo used two 20 MHz LTE carriers, Verizon said. The downlink used 256 QAM modulation.

Ericsson provided the radio system and domain proxy for communication with the Federated spectrum access system. Qualcomm provided testing equipment.

Image courtesy of flickr user FutUndBeidl.