5G and Beyond

FCC's Pai Readies More 5G Spectrum, Will Propose Changes for CBRS Band

FCC chairman Ajit Pai is proposing more mid-band spectrum for 5G usage, including unlicensed spectrum, and potential changes to the CBRS band rules.

The chairman laid some aspects of this agenda in an October 1 blog. This includes opening up a large swathe of 6GHz spectrum for WiFi-style unlicensed connections.(See FCC Unveils '5G FAST Plan'.)

"My proposal ... could make over 1 gigahertz of new unlicensed spectrum available," Pai writes. This, he says, could be used for "faster WiFi" and to "enable mobile broadband companies to supplement their licensed holdings for 5G," like operators can now with 5GHz unlicensed LTE. (See Who's Doing What in the CBRS Band?)

Meanwhile, there seem to be changes afoot for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) 3.5GHz band. Pai says Commissioner Mike O'Rielly has been exploring better ways to use the band, which will be taken up by the agency this month.

Currently, The CBRS band offers 150MHz of open spectrum in the 3.5GHz band in a tiered system managed via Spectrum Access System (SAS) databases. Military satellites and radar get priority access, while Priority Access License (PAL) holders get priority over GAA users, who have access to around 80MHz of unlicensed spectrum at the moment.

It seems that the FCC may be listening to carrier calls for more standard spectrum license agreements. "For example, by allowing providers to renew 3.5 GHz licenses, we will substantially increase their incentives to deploy 5G networks using this spectrum," he states in the blog.

This is important, even though Pai doesn't give any more detail, because Priority Access Licenses (PAL) were supposed to issued for three years at a time. Long-term Renewable Licenses might be more attractive to mobile operators, but perhaps less so to enterprise and small-scale users.

There's no schedule for when the 70MHz of PAL licenses would be auctioned yet, but the 80MHz of unlicensed General Authorized Access (GAA) spectrum is supposed to be available for use this year. (See Unlicensed CBRS 4G Service Coming Q4 2018.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

One of America's most loved telecoms get-togethers, The BIG 5G Event, will be returning to Austin in 2023 to host 1,500+ telecom, cloud and technology professionals — and we want you to be a part of it!

For three days, you can meet and network with leaders from every part of the North American 5G ecosystem and hear from over 150 speakers on the hottest industry topics. To apply for your complimentary pass to the event, visit this link.

Sign In