FCC Could Significantly Slow Deployment With Major Changes to 3.5 GHz Rules, Industry Says
Seventeen companies and associations urged the FCC to act to open the 3.5 GHz band and said it would slow deployment if it made major rule changes. Commissioner Mike O’Rielly is working on revisions (see 1704190056). The Thursday letter says small changes aren’t a problem.
“Within the Wireless Innovation Forum, 47 companies are developing CBRS [Citizens Band Radio Service] standards, and 52 companies from a broad range of wireless industry sectors have joined the CBRS Alliance to develop certification procedures, standards, and business opportunities for LTE-based CBRS systems,” the letter said. “This work represents a large investment of financial resources and manpower by businesses that are bringing this valuable new spectrum resource into widespread commercial use.” Remain “committed to the rules it adopted in 2015 and affirmed in 2016” and “avoid making changes that could undermine existing investments, market expectations, and the ability of operators and investors to rely on FCC rules,” the letter advised. “While we do not oppose modest adjustments to certain rules, major changes that would upset the three-tier structure or risk delays in commercial roll-out would run counter to the FCC’s broadband deployment goals.” The agency didn’t comment.
“In reliance on this approved CBRS framework, a wide variety of companies, including Ruckus, have invested heavily to make the band a reality,” said Dave Wright, director-regulatory affairs and network standards, on a call with reporters. “We’re here today to encourage the FCC to recognize the need for the predictability and stability that’s so important to investment if it decides to revisit the CBRS rules.”
Rise Broadband is trying to help close the digital divide by offering mostly rural homes and businesses broadband at a competitive price, said Jeff Kohler, chief development officer. The 3.5 GHz band “is one of the bands that would help us accelerate our goal of connecting not only the unconnected and the underserved in the rural areas, but also providing a competitive choice for business and homes in suburban areas,” he said. Rise wants deployment as soon as possible, Kohler said.
All Points Broadband, American Tower, Amplex Internet, Baicells Technologies, Boingo, Engine, Google, High Speed Link, Microsoft, NCTA, Skywerx Internet Services, Smart City, Telrad Networks and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association also signed the letter. A year ago, a 5-0 order finalized rules for the shared band. Years in development, it established a three-tiered access and sharing model
among federal and nonfederal incumbents, priority access licensees (PALs) in the 3550-3650 GHz part of the band and general authorized access users (see 1504170055). Commissioners Ajit Pai and O’Rielly voted for the plan, with some reservations.
The O’Rielly revisions appear to focus on providing longer licensing terms for the PALs and making them more easily transferred, FCC and industry officials told us. O’Rielly is also focused on renewability of the licenses and wants to take a fresh look at power-spectrum density rules and whether they need to be adjusted to allow carriers to aggregate licenses for wider channels. Industry officials on the call said they didn’t have any shared view on which changes could be accommodated without slowing deployment.
Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute, said his biggest concern is that the FCC would “radically” enlarge the size of PAL geographic areas for licenses the commission will offer in an eventual auction. “Auctioning licenses with coverage areas larger than Census tracts would undermine the purpose of this small-cell innovation band,” he said. “Very-large-area and expensive licenses are not a good fit for small-cell, high-capacity use cases.” The 3.5 GHz band will offer schools, hospitals, factories and other businesses the option to deploy and operate their own LTE networks, integrated with Wi-Fi outload, at relatively low costs as long as PAL license sizes are kept small, Calabrese said.