CBRS Goes Live, as NTIA Considers Adjacent Spectrum for Commercial Use

The Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) band is finally live for commercial data use in the US, with numerous operators and enterprises already using the frequency, even as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) considers repurposing the nearby 3450-3550MHz band for commercial services.

The FCC has now certified Commscope, Federated Wireless, Google, and Sony to operate as Spectrum Access System (SAS) database administrators in the 3.5GHz CBRS band. Amdocs had been given permission to start initial commercial deployments in September but it is not now listed among the initial SAS providers certified by the FCC this week.

The initial commercial deployments will operate on 80MHz of lightly licensed spectrum on the 150MHz CBRS band. The SAS system prevents interference between government and commercial users, and forthcoming Priority Access License (PAL) CBRS auction winners. The 70MHz of PAL spectrum CBRS licenses are due for auction in June 2020.

SAS operator Federated Wireless says that it now has 25 CBRS customers offering commercial services, and another 50 in the pipeline.

Federated also notes that Verizon Wireless is using CBRS for 4G LTE-Advanced network densification in commercial sites across the US, while Charter is using the technology for fixed wireless service in North Carolina. Private networks using 4G are also under way, with Boingo switching on the first CBRS US airport deployment with a private network for airport personnel at Dallas Love Field. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has also switched on a private-area network-wide system for crucial DART data, as well as public WiFi and CBRS (branded as "OnGo") connectivity from kiosks across the system.

CBRS can be used as a 4G LTE cellular band. Apple is supporting CBRS on its iPhone 11, while Google has CBRS in its Pixel 3 and 4 smartphones. CBRS is also supported in the latest Samsung and LG models.

There are numerous fixed wireless units and outdoor CPEs available from Baicells, Cradlepoint, Zyxel and others.

The 5G New Radio (NR) specification is supported on CBRS, meaning that operators can start to roll out the new wireless technology on the 3.5GHz band. "Federated feels CBRS is a bridge to 5G," comments a spokesperson for Federated.

The NTIA is now considering opening up more spectrum adjacent to the CBRS band for commercial use. "Federal operations in the 3450-3550 MHz band include shipborne, airborne, and land-based systems -- primarily radars," writes Charles Cooper, associate administrator of the Office of Spectrum Management in a blog Monday. "Our report points to a clear possibility for real time spectrum sharing that would protect these critical missions, while providing attractive opportunities for commercial business."

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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