Outside with cellphone

CBRS spectrum band coverage is poised to improve, potentially enhancing service on mobile and fixed wireless networks for 72 million people in the U.S. The NTIA, the U.S. Navy and the FCC have worked to expand the unencumbered portion of the spectrum band, which wireless service providers shared with the Navy.

Until now, commercial operations in the spectrum band have not been allowed in areas near where and when the spectrum is in use by the U.S. military. Those restrictions will still exist, but the size of the protection zones will decrease.

The three agencies studied the potential impact that the change would have on naval operations and determined that the change could be made. The next step will be for the FCC to change the parameters for the spectrum access systems that prevent commercial wireless equipment from operating in the band in restricted areas when the Navy is using the spectrum.

The ball is now in the FCC’s court. In a letter to the agency, NTIA requested that the FCC change SAS parameters after first completing acceptance testing. The goal of that testing would be to demonstrate the FCC’s ability to effectively implement the changes.

The CBRS band is considered mid-band spectrum, which is seen as supporting the optimum mixture of speed and coverage for wireless communications. A portion of the band is available on an essentially unlicensed basis known as general authorized access (GAA).

According to NTIA, the changes will impact 72 million people. Shrinking the protection zones will mean that 240 million people will live outside the outside those zones.

Those zones exist throughout the U.S. but some states will see a bigger impact than others. NTIA noted 17 states and 10 metro areas where the change will be particularly impactful.

Spectrum Sharing Framework
Source:
NTIA

In a prepared statement, NTCA Administrator Alan Davidson called the impending change a “win-win.”

As he put it, “The Department of Defense will have the airwaves it needs to carry out crucial missions while providing greater access for commercial 5G and high-speed internet deployment.” Internet access will be expanded for people across the U.S., he said.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel noted that the spectrum sharing approach is “already fertile ground for wireless innovation.” She also called it “creative spectrum policy at work.”

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