Was the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) “innovation band” because of the new sharing mechanism, or the services to be eventually offered, or because it was designed to accommodate the largest and smallest U.S. wireless providers by providing licensed and unlicensed-like spectrum in the same band? FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly posed that question during remarks at the OnGo Commercial Service Launch yesterday in Washington, D.C.
The answer was all of the above. But that wasn’t all that was innovative.
“What people didn’t envision – and I certainly didn’t expect – was the speed at which an entire ecosystem would be created,” O’Rielly said. “When we look back, this may be where the 3.5 GHz band and OnGo turned out to be truly innovative. Who really thought that there would be commercially available handsets equipped with 3.5 GHz chips before the testing phase even came to an end?”
CBRS offerings will have OnGo branding, established test labs, a certification program, and LTE-based standards and, eventually, 5G standards. O’Rielly said all the activity is a sign of the pent-up demand for mid-band spectrum for next-gen wireless.
“Experts differ on how this spectrum may eventually be used, be it a component to the Internet of Things, fixed wireless service, enterprise and campus connectivity, wireless backhaul and offloading, or fully integrated 5G mobile service,” O’Rielly said. “While there were many doubters about whether 5G would take hold in this band, I think it is now safe to acknowledge that 3.5 GHz will be one of the first 5G spectrum bands in the United States because of your efforts.”
The next step will involve the FCC setting up the rules for the Priority Access License (PAL) auction to start on June 25, 2020 at its Open Meeting next week.
“Many of you worked closely with me as I reviewed the 3.5 GHz licensing structure at the Chairman’s request, and I know you were eagerly awaiting this announcement and getting PALs out into the marketplace,” O’ Rielly said. “The compromise reached should promote a wide variety of innovative uses when they become available.
The ICDs we launch today will serve as the ultimate proof of concept, permitting operators to go live under the unlicensed-like framework, or general authorized access.
O’Rielly isn’t going to stop with 3.5 GHz. He said will continue to advocate for reallocating the C-band, which is directly above CBRS at 3.7 to 4.2 GHz, as well making an effort to clear the spectrum between 3.45 to 3.55.
“Also, the frequencies between 3.1 to 3.45 GHz should be studied to see which, or whether potentially all, can be cleared, or, if necessary, how commercial deployment might be facilitated by a CBRS-like sharing model. And don’t forget 7 GHz, which needs to be explored as well,” he said.