The FCC has authorized full commercial deployment in the CBRS band, thereby opening the band for use in mobile and fixed wireless networks, including private networks that will offer an alternative to enterprise Wi-Fi.

The band includes a wide 150 MHz swath of mid-band spectrum between 3550 and 3700 MHz, which according to many industry observers, offers the optimum mixture of bandwidth and range. An auction of approximately half the band is scheduled to start later this year. In the meantime, the entire band will be available for unlicensed use on a shared basis with incumbent military users.

Development of spectrum access systems (SASs) to ensure that military users have priority access to the CBRS band was critical to enabling shared use of the spectrum. According to an FCC public notice, four companies have now been certified as spectrum access system administrators, including CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google and Sony.

CBRS Commercial Deployment
The opening of the CBRS band to full commercial deployment comes four months after several companies – including AT&T, Verizon, Charter, wireless internet service providers and others were approved for initial commercial deployments (ICDs) in the CBRS band.

Each ICD lasted 30 days, and participants were required to conduct a range of tests and submit the results to the FCC. The goal was to ensure that SASs were able to perform as required.

In the ICDs, major service providers such as Verizon and Charter used the CBRS spectrum to augment existing mobile services, while WISPs used the spectrum for fixed service. WISPs have used a portion of the CBRS band that was already available for unlicensed use for years, and some have deployed equipment that can easily be upgraded to use the full band now that full commercial deployment has been authorized.

It’s important to note, though, that using the CBRS band on an unlicensed basis doesn’t come for free. On a recent webinar with Telecompetitor, Chris Konechne, project engineer for broadband engineering firm Finley Engineering noted that one SAS administrator plans to charge about two dollars per antenna device per month for SAS use.

Handsets and More
A press release issued today by the CBRS Alliance offered some additional detail about the CBRS full commercial deployment news. The CBRS Alliance focuses on the development of 4G and 5G technology for use in the CBRS band. The alliance also is responsible for the OnGo brand used for CBRS offerings. Key points from the CBRS Alliance press release include:

  • Six handsets already on the market can operate in the CBRS band, including the Google Pixel 4, Motorola 5G Moto Mod, Samsung Galaxy S10, Apple iPhone 11, and the LG G8 ThinQ and OnePlus 7 Pro.
  • Three companies — CommScope, Federated Wireless and Google – operate environmental sensing capability (ESC) networks deployed along the U.S. coast to support SAS capability.
  • The press release also cites a study from Furchtgott-Roth Economic Enterprises underwritten, in part, by the CBRS Alliance, which estimated that the CBRS band will directly contribute as much as $15.6 billion to the U.S. economy, and that its actual value to consumers could be as much as $80 billion to $260 billion.

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