Could Some New Entrants Get CBRS Licenses by Year-end?

Some of the new entrants on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) could be operating on the band by year-end. There will be plenty of opportunities for new uses, according to K.C. Halm and Van Bloys, attorneys for Davis Wright Tremaine. They described FCC changes and potential future CBRS band use cases in a Wireless Infrastructure Association webinar yesterday.


Halm noted that several WIA members acquired experimental licenses for the band, a hot topic at this spring’s ConnectX in Charlotte, NC.
150 MHz of contiguous spectrum will be available for commercial use “in the very near future on a shared basis for licensed and unlicensed use,” said Halm. He described shared spectrum rights by tier (see image.)   

The original rules, established in 2015, enable shared access between federal and non-federal users, consisting of incumbents, Priority Access Licenses (PALs) and General Authorized Access users. The Report and Order changes the size of PAL licenses from census tracts to counties and extends PAL license terms to 10 years with renewal expectancy, among other changes.

Halm believes spectrum sharing could extend to other bands, observing the agency proposed such sharing in the 6 GHz band and is considering sharing in C-band, just above the CBRS band.

“What we’re calling the secret sauce of CBRS” is the Spectrum Access System, “which will coordinate access among dynamic users,” said Halm. The SAS will identify available frequencies in each tier and assign users. The SAS will alert users if a “higher tier” user “comes into the market and needs to use the spectrum,” according to Halm. “Before they transmit they contact the SAS. They say, ‘This is where I am, my antenna pattern and power level.’” And the SAS either allows the use or not, depending on channel use. Incumbent Navy radar systems are not using the band all the time, he stressed. They use the band only along the coasts, when a ship is entering or leaving port.

SAS providers like commercial entities Google, Sony, and Federated Wireless are working with network operators now to ensure their algorithms work. The FCC will review those test results. GAA spectrum could possibly be available by year-end but early 2019 is more likely, according to Halm. PAL licenses could be auctioned in 2019 or 2020.

The FCC granted experimental licenses to several WIA members to test uses of the CBRS band, according to Halm and Bloys:

  • SBA Communications is testing the band for indoor use in Boca Raton
  • ExteNet is testing fixed wireless use for WISPs and indoor neutral-host DAS
  • Wave Wireless is operating an indoor CBRS network in Washington, D.C., working with enterprise partners to evaluate various private LTE offerings
  • Boingo deployed CBRS for private LTE at Dallas Love Field Airport
  • Verizon is working with Nokia, Ericsson, Google, Qualcomm, Corning, and Federated Wireless to test LTE-A on CBRS at its Irving, TX facility.


Potential uses cases they describe include:

  • Mobile: expand small cell capacity for LTE
  • Fixed wireless: enhance last-mile and access
  • Neutral hosts networks: hosted services
  • Private LTE networks: industrial IoT and other applications-focused on delivering high-capacity data or broadband (like oil and gas operations)
  • Venues/Real Estate: In-building DAS-like solutions to meet indoor densification challenges-building CBRS networks in places like hotels/stadiums/shopping centers

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By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

November 1, 2018 

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