CTIA: CBRS Sharing Falls Short of Expectations


CBRS spectrum is underused and fails to meet proponents’ expectations, according to a study from Recon Analytics commissioned by CTIA. The review shows CBRS remains unproven and carries a heavy opportunity cost when compared to exclusive-use, licensed commercial spectrum, says the telecom association. It characterizes licensed commercial spectrum as “increasingly efficient, highly used, enabling innovative 5G use cases and supporting long-term economic growth.”

“A review of today’s CBRS marketplace shows that CBRS does not live up to the hype as the foundation of innovation and should not be a model for future spectrum policy,” said Recon Analytics Founder and Lead Analyst Roger Entner. “Real-world studies show low utilization, low market demand, and a dearth of innovative use cases.”

Under a spectrum management system created in 2012, government and commercial users share spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. The system was created to explore sharing as an alternative to auctioning spectrum for exclusive, licensed commercial use. Rights to use the spectrum are managed dynamically, with higher priority government users able to supersede the rights of commercial users who paid for priority access, and a lower tier of users with free access, Inside Towers reported.

In its review, Recon Analytics found there are few real-world studies on CBRS use. “Those that exist suggest CBRS spectrum is underutilized,” the firm concludes. The most prevalent use cases are traditional wireless deployments, “suggesting CBRS is not driving innovative new use cases,” it found. Recon Analytics determined that “spectrum sharing technology is complicated, which discourages adoption.” It says some vendors have abandoned the market.

However, the paper finds that exclusive-use, licensed commercial spectrum has succeeded. Wireless providers have increased their spectrum efficiency by 42 percent over the past decade, prices have declined 43 percent, and spectrum auctions have proven to deliver more than $177 billion to the U.S. treasury, according to Recon Analytics.

“Licensed spectrum is the platform of the 5G economy that is transforming the way we live and work,” said CTIA President/CEO Meredith Attwell Baker. “Data use is up, prices are down, and we are already seeing innovations from driverless cars to AR/VR education – all thanks to exclusive-use, licensed spectrum.” She says policymakers need to focus on creating a pipeline of additional licensed spectrum” and “not export a still unproven experiment to additional bands.”

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