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FCC Concludes CBRS Spectrum Auction

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

Let the Innovation Begin!

The FCC’s auction of Priority Access Licenses (PAL) in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which began July 23, ended yesterday raising $4.5 billion in bids. The auction offered 22,631 licenses in the 3550-3650 MHz band, which was the largest number of spectrum licenses ever put on the block in an FCC auction. These 70 megahertz of licensed spectrum may serve a mix of uses, from  mid-band capacity for the carriers’ deployment of 5G to private wireless systems used by enterprises and municipalities.

“Ericsson stands ready to support these CBRS networks with its outdoor micro radio, outdoor massive MIMO radio, indoor Radio Dot, and our domain coordinator software fully supporting the PAL frequencies.” Says Paul Challoner VP network product solutions.

Bidders won 20,625 of the 22,631 available licenses, or more than 91.1percent. The auction was a success, according FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who said the demand for the licenses resulted from reforms made to the rules for the 3.5 GHz band, which were spearheaded by FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. Dave Wright, head of the CBRS Alliance also applauded the results of the auction.

“Whether judged by traditional metrics such as total auction proceeds and price/MHz/Pop, or by non-traditional metrics such as the number and diversity of bidders, the demand for rural as well as metro licenses, and the overall number of licenses awarded – one has to conclude that Auction 105 far exceeded expectations,” Wright said. “This is further confirmation of the value of this shared band and is the last component to be put into service, enabling the full realization and potential of the 3-Tier spectrum sharing model.”

Spectrum Will Enable Smaller, Rural Operators

Although it is too early to know the winners, the auction will most likely enable new market entrants, including smaller and rural operators, to build low-cost carrier-grade networks, which will lead to hundreds of new networks, according to a new report from Colorado-based cooperative CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange, which examines how the CBRS band could change the broadband industry.

“We think that operators can build a high-quality network by acquiring a small amount of licensed spectrum,” according to the report. “Having the ability to toggle between licensed and unlicensed channels allows operators to maintain high throughput speeds. For example, when data traffic levels are high, operators can use their licensed spectrum as an overflow channel and when data traffic is light, they can use the lower-cost unlicensed channel.”

The owners of PALs in the CBRS band will mix with the users of the general authorized access (GAA) licenses to create to create new business models with new market players. Some of the possible bidders in the auction were Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, fiber supplier Corning, John Deere and universities, according to Cobank.

“For rural America, John Deere stands out for its investments in agricultural technologies,” the report said. “Deere’s interest in buying spectrum may signal its intent to become a network operator where it bundles high-speed data connectivity with farming equipment. After all, the company’s investments in precision agriculture, etc. won’t be fully realized until access to high speed data networks broadens in rural America.”

The most likely purchasers of the PALs were mobile network operators looking to supplement their other spectrum holdings, cable multiple-system operators (MSOs), existing CBRS-based wireless internet service providers (WISPs), enterprises, local governments, telcos and investors who see the opportunity to obtain CBRS spectrum and then subdivide it into smaller parcels for use by smaller enterprises and entities, according to Iain Gillott, founder and president of iGR, a market strategy consultancy, in an article published by AGL eDigest.

“It is this last group that is particularly interesting,” Gillott wrote. “Because PALs are at the county level, the chances of an enterprise being able to afford a PAL is unlikely, unless it has significant spectrum needs across the entire area. But a larger enterprise/investor could buy one or more PALs in a given area and then make the spectrum available to a single commercial building owner or single warehouse.

“For example, imagine one of the major public cloud providers obtaining PALs across the United State and then making the spectrum available to their cloud customers for internet of things (IoT) applications,” he added.

Detailed auction results, including the names of Auction 105 winning bidders, will be released in a few days. For more information, visit: www.fcc.gov/auction/105.

Trump Calls for Annual Federal Spectrum Review, Increased Sharing

Federal executive departments and agencies will review their spectrum usage and report to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), on their anticipated future bandwidth requirements, according to a memo signed by President Donald J. Trump.

While the government will need continued access to spectrum in the future, the memo called on agencies to continue expanding the opportunities for sharing spectrum with the private sector.

According to the memo, “Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future, ”The U.S. Government will also continue to encourage investment and adoption by federal agencies of commercial, dual-use, or other advanced technologies that meet mission requirements, including 5G technologies”

Within 180 days of the memo, and then annually, the NTIA, and in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the FCC, will submit a report on the status of existing efforts and planned spectrum repurposing initiatives.

The reason for the spectrum strategy is its relationship to the technologies that are needed for the economy and for security.

“Wireless communications and associated data applications establish a foundation for high‑wage jobs and national prosperity,” the memo said. “While American industry continues to extract greater and greater value from spectrum, each technological leap also increases demands on its usage.”

In the future, spectrum will be needed for use cases such as autonomous vehicles and precision agriculture, commercial space operations, and the Internet of Things, as well as 5G, the document said.

“Moreover, it is imperative that America be first in 5G wireless technologies — wireless technologies capable of meeting the high-capacity, low-latency, and high-speed requirements that can unleash innovation broadly across diverse sectors of the economy and the public sector,” according to the memo.

Congress Passes Wide Ranging Wireless Act

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

There is something for everyone in H.R 4986, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services, or RAY BAUM’S Act, which passed the House of Representatives this week. The bipartisan compromise included key provisions of the MOBILE NOW act, the House took steps to make sure more spectrum will be available for 5G technology deployment and streamlined siting of wireless infrastructure in federal lands.

“I would say that, as an infrastructure provider, we commend this effort to streamline deployments and expedite future spectrums auctions and hope to see the Senate pass this as well,” Carrie Ortolano, general counsel, CTI Towers, said. “In particular, CTI Towers applauds the effort to streamline and make uniform the process to place infrastructure on federal property and hopes to see more federal property available for infrastructure development as a result once this bill is passed.”

In particular, the bill directs the FCC to find 255 megahertz of federal and non-federal spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use, and it set a two-year deadline for the commission to authorize mobile or fixed terrestrial wireless use between 42000 MHz and 42500 MHz. Additionally, the FCC is charged with evaluating the feasibility of commercial wireless between 3100 MHz and 3550 MHz and between 3700 MHz and 4200 MHz.

“Specifically, by including both MOBILE NOW and the Spectrum Deposits Act in today’s compromise, it provides an important technical fix and lays important groundwork for the FCC to proceed with key spectrum auctions,” FCC Comm. Michael O’Reilly said in a statement.  “Once this becomes law there are several large-scale spectrum auctions for mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum – especially the upper 37 GHz (37.6-38.6 GHz) – that the Commission needs to conduct in the very near future.

The bill reauthorizes the FCC for FY2019-FY2020 (the first time in 28 years) and sets new expectations for the agency in terms of transparency and more efficient processes.

Congress designated an independent inspector general to watch over the agency, elevated the role of Chief Information Officer to handling planning, and took actions concerning the fees charged by the Commission. The FCC was also directed to improve its wireless coverage maps.

The legislation combines an effort to streamline processes and increase transparency to the FCC to “maximize opportunities for public participation and efficient decision making” and establish a fund in the U.S. Treasury to pay for costs incurred by the broadcast TV repack.

FCC is also required evaluate the broadband coverage in Indian country and carry out rulemaking to address unserved tribal areas.

There is even something for the consumers in this law, helping the FCC and law enforcement protect them from fraudulent telephone calls, and to educate Americans about how to stop illegal calls. It will now go the Senate for a vote.

J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.

More Cell Towers Back on the Air in Texas

By J. Sharpe Smith

UPDATE — Cell service in the area affected by Harvey continued to dramatically improve  over the long Labor Day weekend. Cells out of service now stand at 73 down from 150 on Sunday and down from 296 last Thursday, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System.

Additionally, the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency reduced the number of counties in Harvey’s disaster area to 13 — Texas: Aransas, Calhoun, Chambers, Hardin, Harris, Jefferson, Matagorda, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Wharton — down from a high of 70 counties.

“As the storm raged on, our network continued to withstand the severity of the storm’s impact, with more than 98 percent of our sites in service,” said Lowell McAdam, CEO at Verizon. “To connect those in need, we’re offering free voice, and data to our postpaid customers and an extra 3GB of voice, and data to our prepaid customers in South Texas counties impacted by the hurricane through September 15th.”

Drone Companies Stand By to Help

Chris Moccia, executive vice president of Measure, the Drone as a Service Company, said his company has drone pilots in Texas and would be offering to the carriers to help get the cell towers back on the air, including generators, realtime video, trucks and supplies.

Measure was involved with the Verizon’s recovery following Hurricane Matthew last year, but catastrophic nature of Harvey brings a whole new scope to the services that will be needed.

“We anticipate having crews in the market for a while,” Moccia said. “There is a lot of flooding and a lot of damage to the infrastructure itself.”

DataWing Global is another drone company that is positioning itself to help in the aftermath of Harvey. DataWing drone pilots were scheduled to depart from the company’s San Antonio headquarters this morning to establish a mobile command center in Mathis, Texas, according to Jimmy Taylor,” senior vice president, business development, DataWing Global.

“We anticipate adding Part 107 pilots, aircraft and additional personnel to the area as the demand and need for resources develop over the next few weeks,” he said. “Until the weather clears and authorities allow access to the areas of devastation, DataWing will stand by collecting intelligence necessary to conduct tactical operations in a safe, prompt and legal manner.”

J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. 

White House Launches $400M 5G Initiative

July 19, 2016 — The Obama Administration launched a $400 million public/private Advanced Wireless Research Initiative this week, in which the National Science Foundation and more than 20 technology companies and private-sector associations will invest $85 million in four city-scale, public-private testing platforms to support fundamental research on advanced wireless technologies.

The fundamental research supported on these platforms—including $350 million in NSF academic research over the next seven years that can utilize the testing platforms—will allow academics, entrepreneurs, and the wireless industry to test and develop advanced wireless technology ideas at-scale, some of which may translate into key future innovations for next-generation, 5G networks and beyond.

“As part of this Initiative, cities and communities will collaborate with university researchers and technology companies to research, develop, and deploy cutting-edge technologies in their communities using the new research platforms as a catalyst, which in turn will help drive new opportunities for innovation, high-skilled jobs, high-growth startups, and smart, connected community services,” the White House wrote.

The funding initiative is designed to build on the FCC’s Spectrum Frontiers order, which made the United States the first country in the world to make high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum available for both licensed and unlicensed use.

If $400 million seems like a lot of money. To put that into perspective, the European Union just pumped $768.84 million into the 5G Public Private Partnership, which is charged with advancing the next generation wireless technologies. Another $3.3 billion of private money is expected to be invested into the partnership.