United States: The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is getting closer to reality
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The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”), a 5G service in the 3550-3700 MHz (“3.5 GHz”) band, is gradually becoming a reality. Operationally, CBRS is a short-range, high-bandwidth wireless service that can be used by carriers or enterprises for voice, data, or IoT applications. From a regulatory perspective, CRBS is unusual in that it provides for a combination of unlicensed users (referred to as General Authorized Access, or “GAA” users), and special license holders (referred to as licensees priority access, or “PAL”).
PALs will be protected from interference from GAA operations through a dynamic frequency coordination process managed by Spectrum Access System (“SAS”) administrators. Up to seven PAL licenses (each for 10 MHz of bandwidth) will be auctioned in every county across the country. GAA users can operate in the entire band subject to SAS frequency control. Thus, GAA users can operate up to 15 channels in a given area, but SAS will ensure that PALs have priority access to their channels in the event of a frequency conflict.
While the service has been under development since the FCC first adopted CBRS rules in 2015, two recent developments have made purchasing compatible equipment and/or licenses a more immediate reality for entities. who may wish to use this 5G service for their industrial operations. or corporate campuses.
First, in September 2019, the FCC approved lab test reports from five SAS administrators and approved these systems for “initial commercial deployment”. The first five systems to be approved are from Amdocs, Inc., CommScope, Federated Wireless, Inc., Google and Sony. As part of the initial commercial rollout, the FCC set out a number of requirements for SAS administrators, including the following:
- They must notify the FCC when field testing begins and ends and provide information about the geographic areas where testing will take place.
- A report must be submitted to the FCC upon completion of testing demonstrating compliance with all FCC SAS requirements.
- If test reports demonstrate compliance with technical requirements, the FCC will clear each SAS for commercial service for five years.
Second, the FCC plans to hold a countywide service area priority access license auction in June 2020, so the initial approval of the first five SAS systems is an important milestone for give potential bidders the assurance that they will be able to begin operation as soon as the auction ends and the PAL licenses are issued. Of course, this also means that General Access users are much closer to purchasing CBRS devices and registering them with a SAS administrator for essentially license-free use.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.
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