Altice USA Gears Up for Trio of CBRS Trials

In a move linked to its broader plans around mobile and wireless, Altice USA is preparing to run a set of tech trials in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, a shared slice of spectrum that will support both licensed and unlicensed use cases.

Based on vendor selection for the CBRS experiments, suppliers such as Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS)/Ruckus Networks, Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN) and Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS) could benefit should Altice USA 's trials turn into commercial deployments down the line.

Altice USA and other cable operators that are running or planning trials in the band, including Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Charter Communications Inc. , are particularly eager to see if CBRS spectrum can help offload costs associated with their respective MVNO agreements. CBRS will also be used in neutral host scenarios that will enable infrastructure companies to sell access to carriers in airports and other types of venues. (See Charter's 'Inside-Out' Wireless Plan Starts to Take Shape, Charter Unleashes Spectrum Mobile… Without the iPhone and Mobile Is No Passing Fad for US Cable.)

Comcast and Charter have launched mobile products via MVNO deals with Verizon Wireless, while Altice USA is getting ready to launch a mobile service next year that leans on its "full" MVNO agreement with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S). (See Altice USA: 'Wait Till Next Year!' )

Word of Altice USA's interest in the CBRS band started to surface in May as the operator issued a request for information (RFI) on CBRS small cell products and a request for proposal (RFP) for multiple field trials.

Dexter Goei, Altice USA's CEO, referenced the company's CBRS activity on the company's Q2 call earlier this month, noting that the 3.5GHz band "may be good complementary capacity for us."

According to its Special Temporary Authority Licensing applications to the FCC, the cable operator (filling as Altice USA Wireless) has already been granted or has pending temporary authority to conduct tests in the CBRS band (a 150 MHz-wide slice in the range of 3.55 GHz to 3.7 GHz). The tests will employ a new class of spectrum allocation servers to ensure that new licensed and unlicensed users do not interfere with incumbent users like the US Navy, which relies on the band for flight operations for aircraft carriers. (See CBRS LTE Gets Branded as 'OnGo'.)

Here's a snapshot of Altice USA's current set of CBRS test plans:

Table 1: Putting CBRS on Trial

Site of Trial Spectrum for Trial Requested Operation Dates Status Vendors Selected
Bethpage, N.Y. 3650-3700MHz Aug. 1, 2018 - Jan. 1, 2019 Granted Ericsson, Nokia and Airspan.
Jonesboro, Ark. 3680-3700MHz Sept. 1, 2018 – Feb. 28, 2019 Granted Ericsson, Nokia, Airspan, and Ruckus (Arris).
Deer Park, N.Y. 3650-3700MHz Sept. 1, 2018 – Feb. 28, 2019. Pending Ericsson, Nokia, Airspan, Ruckus, Berkeley Varitronics Systems.
Source: FCC Office of Engineering and Technology documents.

Per the FCC documents, Altice intends to run CBRS trials using a variety of experimental equipment and test the band in both indoor and outdoor locations. The testing will evaluate propagation, capacity and mobility characteristics in the band.

In June, Altice USA tapped Jean-Charles Nicolas as senior vice president of Altice Mobile, a newly created role at the company.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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