FCC ChairSource: FCC

What you need to know

  • The FCC has named four Spectrum Access System operators.
  • The SAS is a key component of the newly-opened CBRS network.
  • The next step will be a license auction, happening in June, 2020.

A block of spectrum currently being used primarily by the U.S. Navy and commercial satellite owners has taken a step closer to wider commercial and public access. The so-called CBRS bands, soon to be branded the "OnGo" network, occupies space around the 3.5 GHz wavelength. The government has been working on plans to open up this spectrum, with the stipulation that commercial users will yield to incumbent governemnt systems, and later private users will yield to commercial users as well as the government.

That requires some complicated network management, so the first step is to appoint Spectrum Access Systems (SASs) that will handle the frequency prioritization. The FCC has just announced that CommScope, Federated Wireless, Inc., Google, and Sony, Inc. will all act as SAS handlers for the CBRS network. The next step will be to auction Priority Access Licenses (PALs) for commercial use, and that auction is still scheduled to take place in June.

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The CBRS network sits in a nice sweet spot for network connectivity, offering a good mix of range and data speed potential. While we may see large carriers sign up for the PAL auction, because of the tiered nature of the network and the fact that commercial use will never truly own the road, it seems more likely that smaller MVNOs would buy licenses to fill gaps in network coverage. After the PAL auction is sorted, the CBRS system will open up for general access, but these users will be at the bottom of the pile, susceptible to interference not only from the governemnt and PAL owners, but also from other general access users.

The Navy is sharing its radio spectrum with wireless carriers

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