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4G/3G/WiFi

Cable op Midco hints at interest in CBRS spectrum auction

Cable company Midco continues to test fixed wireless operations in the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band, an effort that's specifically geared toward helping it prepare to potentially bid in the government's upcoming CBRS spectrum auction, the company said.

"The trial will also provide Midco with information that may be useful in bidding on PALs," the company wrote in a recent filing with the FCC seeking permission to continue to conduct tests in the CBRS spectrum band.

The FCC – the US government agency charged with managing the nation's spectrum resources – plans to begin auctioning roughly half of the 3.5GHz CBRS band in June. The licenses it will offer up in the auction are called Priority Access Licenses (PALs). The licenses in the other half of the band – which will remain unlicensed and open for anyone to use – are called General Authorized Access (GAA) licenses.

Midco has made no secret of its interest in using the CBRS band for LTE-powered fixed wireless services. Last year, company CTO Jonathan Pederson told Light Reading that the cable operator plans to use CBRS spectrum to expand its current cable coverage area to roughly 100,000 new potential customers. He said the company expects to sign up around 20,000 total new customers through the effort.

Fixed wireless technology allows providers to beam stationary Internet connections into homes and offices, thus sidestepping the potentially expensive need to physically route wires to those locations.

By bidding on PAL CBRS spectrum licenses, Midco would have exclusive access to that spectrum and wouldn't have to share it with anyone else.

And that's exactly the kind of scenario Midco hopes to continue testing in places like North Dakota and Minnesota, according to its filing with the FCC.

In its filing, the company said its tests "will enable Midco to gain an enhanced understanding of the benefits, challenges and costs associated with near-term deployment of LTE equipment in the 3650-3700 MHz band as well as for CBRS and to compare performance and capabilities of the manufacturers' equipment and technology," the company wrote. "Understanding the balance between cost and performance will significantly inform Midco's business decisions, for the benefit of its own financial modeling and consumers who will be offered a better service. Midco also plans to experiment with various speed and pricing plans to assess consumer acceptance of the service. If the trial is technologically successful and beneficial to consumers, Midco will be able to make decisions on the equipment platform it believes will work best and realize significant cost savings and improved performance."

Midco is testing LTE fixed wireless equipment from fixed wireless vendors Telrad and Baicells for around 2,300 customers in the two states.

Midco offers Internet and TV services in locations across South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Wisconsin, and currently counts around 400,000 wired Internet customers on its existing cable network. The company is one of several cable operators, including Comcast and Charter Communications, exploring wireless operations in the CBRS band.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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