The FCC today released a Report and Order regarding the creation of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), a shared spectrum scheme dividing up 150 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band.
The official Order, circulated by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, comes after several years of public notices around the rulemaking process.
Under the proposal, 3550-3700 MHz would be governed under a three-tier system. The top tier would be reserved for federal and non-federal incumbent users including the Defense Department. The lowest tier would be named General Authorized Access (GAA) and it would be open to any FCC-certified device. The middle tier, dubbed the Priority Access tier, would make available Priority Access Licenses (PAL), or “targeted, short-duration licenses,” for auction.
The auction process would be established through traditional public notice procedures used by the FCC.
All tiers would be controlled by the Spectrum Access System (SAS), a cloud-based frequency coordinator.
The FCC’s shared spectrum proposal for 3.5 GHz comes as technology is emerging to allow unlicensed LTE to be deployed in the 5 GHz band. Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and vendors like Ericsson and Qualcomm are currently working toward late 2015 to early 2016 deployments that would boost LTE downlink speeds.
An FCC senior official said that 3.5 GHz unlicensed spectrum could also be used for LTE supplemental downlink and carriers wouldn’t have to work around massive amounts of Wi-Fi users like in 5 GHz.
The new Order is largely the same as earlier Notices of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) outlining the CBRS but further advancements have potentially lifted some of the early geographic limitations.
NTIA has helped update the sharing framework, particularly in shrinking the exclusion zones near the U.S. coasts set up to avoid interference with incumbent operations. Phase One could see those zones downsized by as much as 77 percent and Phase Two could see those zones mostly disappear.
In a blog post, Wheeler mentioned new sensor technology that would allow for unlimited access to exclusion zones.
No clear timeline is available for when those different phases could unfold but FCC officials suggest that if licensees have the sensor technology up and running when they eventually receive licenses for the 3.5 GHz band, they could begin free and clear nationwide operation right away.
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Filed Under: Industry regulations