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CableLabs to Host First CBRS Alliance Interop

Jeff Baumgartner
8/27/2018

As cable operators, mobile carriers and others inch toward commercial CBRS deployments as early as late 2018, the CBRS Alliance has set its first interoperability test to take place this week at the CableLabs facilities in Louisville, Colo.

The test event, scheduled to run all week, will enable participants to test the interactions between access points operating in the emerging shared 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service band and a new breed of Spectrum Access Systems (SASs).

According to an official with the CBRS Alliance , an organization that has branded the LTE-based technology as "OnGo," participants include a number of vendors that are supporting "large" CBRS trials with MSOs. (See CBRS LTE Gets Branded as 'OnGo' and CBRS Alliance Touts Membership Milestone .)

This initial interop event "is an important prerequisite for commercialization of the 3.5GHz band expected later this year," the organization added.

The CBRS Alliance wouldn't say which vendors are participating, but noted that there are more than a dozen Citizens Broadband Radio Service Device manufacturers registered for the event, along with five SAS vendors. According to a document from the CBRS Alliance regarding a recent meeting with the FCC, the group said there were 48 participants overall registered for the event at the time, including three government representatives.

While all elements of the CBRS ecosystem are important, the SAS component centers on critical spectrum allocation servers designed to ensure that new entrants on the shared band, whether for licensed or unlicensed use, do not interfere with incumbent users such as the US Navy, which uses the spectrum for aircraft carrier flight operations.

SAS candidates for the first CBRS Alliance plugfest include Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), Comsearch (part of CommScope Inc. ), Federated Wireless , Key Bridge LLC, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE).

Mobile carriers and cable operators are both eyeing various use-cases for the CBRS band, a 150 MHz-wide slice of underutilized spectrum living in the range of 3.55 GHz to 3.7 GHz.

CBRS will be used for private LTE networks to serve airports, commercial buildings and other venues. Cable operators see it as valuable real estate they can tap into to help offset some of the costs of their respective MSO deals. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Charter Communications Inc. and Altice USA are among the US MSOs that are conducting or planning to conduct trials in the CBRS band.

While it's expected that deployments can get underway using the unlicensed (General Authorized Access, or GAA) portion of the band, questions remain about how the future of the licensed (Priority Access License, or PAL) component will be shaped.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) still needs to cement the rules around the PAL element, including the size of the licensing areas. Per the FCC, CBRS auctions will involve more than 500,000 licenses and take place every three years, at a minimum. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are working on the certification process for the spectrum allocation servers and radios.

In July, the CBRS Alliance said eight global labs have been approved to conduct testing for OnGo Certification focused on interoperability and security, and expects more than a dozen to be on board by year's end. The CBRS Alliance told the FCC earlier this month that 12 devices have been submitted for OnGo Certification, and three have completed testing with authorized labs and are now awaiting review from the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) and other bodies.

For more info about recent CBRS-related action, check out:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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