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'A Great Success'

Federal Officials Defend CBRS as a Sharing Model That's Working

FCC and NTIA officials defended the citizens broadband radio service band as potentially offering a model for future sharing, during an FCBA spectrum pipeline forum Monday. Last week, CTIA questioned whether CBRS, often cited as the potential sharing model of the future, is a suitable replacement for exclusive, licensed spectrum (see 2211140062). CBRS advocates have fired back.

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The FCC remains focused on spectrum sharing models based on CBRS, said Joel Taubenblatt, acting chief of the Wireless Bureau. “As spectrum scarcity becomes greater … there’s a continued need to take advantage of advances in spectrum sharing technologies and CBRS certainly is a prime example of how dynamic spectrum coordination can be beneficial,” he said.

NTIA views CBRS as “so far a great success,” said Derek Khoplin, NTIA deputy associate administrator-spectrum planning and policy. He noted the different views of the band expressed over the last week. “From a sharing technology perspective, we think there is a lot to learn there, it doesn’t mean we’ll implement it exactly like it is in CBRS, but I think we’re very curious to see how we build upon that, potentially, in other bands,” he said.

Every band that we explore is unique,” but NTIA is looking for some consistency in how sharing works in different bands, Khoplin said. “There’s a lot of different models -- we’d like to standardize more and be more consistent, but it’s not always that easy,” he said. NTIA is interested in other sharing models, like the incumbent informing capability being developed by DOD (see 2110220024), he said.

Khoplin said of the 3.1-3.45 GHz band, widely viewed as the next major band for 5G (see 2210050044), that DOD is working to “bring in industry and try to have those dialogues and move things forward.” That work is done in stages and “we’re pretty early in the game,” he said. There may be “opportunities” for exclusive-use licenses in various bands “but the reality is spectrum sharing is here to stay,” he said.

The FCC is “looking at spectrum opportunities wherever we can find them,” and not just in the mid-band, Taubenblatt said. He noted the scope of what constitutes mid-band has been expanded upward to 16 GHz, according to the FCC.

NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson, on “day one” after he took office contacted FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on improving coordination on spectrum, Khoplin said. “There’s a long history of FCC/NTIA collaboration and cooperation and, honestly, it’s 90% great,” he said.

The administration will likely provide the opportunity to offer public comment on a national spectrum strategy, before it’s finalized, with one or two events where speakers can also speak, but plans are still taking shape, Khoplin said.

Speakers disagreed about sharing and the importance of CBRS, on a panel. In mid-band, “there really does need to be a continued focus on exclusive-use licensed spectrum to power 5G, instead of simply just saying spectrum sharing is the only way going forward,” said Rachael Bender, Verizon vice president-federal regulatory & legal affairs. “Licensed spectrum gives the holder kind of the maximum ability to provide this consistent, quality service,” she said. Verizon customers expect the company to deliver “predictable, dependable, interference-free” service “no matter when or where,” she said: “This is really important for us.”

Verizon is a big user of CBRS, Bender said. “This is prime spectrum; we have to figure out how to use it under the framework that’s been set,” she said. “There are other approaches that should be considered going forward,” she said: Full-power licensed use “reduces the number of cellsites. It brings more spectral efficiency. It helps with getting coverage out to wider areas.”

If we’re going to move forward into the future to provide spectrum for new technologies then we’re going to have to find ways to share,” said Kathleen Burke, Public Knowledge policy counsel. Wi-Fi “really demonstrated … the ability to share from the beginning,” she said. “Sharing in the CBRS band has been very successful to date,” she said.

CBRS was designed to give smaller providers access to spectrum, Burke said. School districts, tribes, the NFL, farmers and others are having success with CBRS, she said: “Las Vegas is planning to build its own city network using CBRS.” Some of the use cases are competing with carriers, she noted. Just assigning all mid-band to exclusive use “is not a balanced approach to spectrum policy,” she said.

More mid-band spectrum is critically important -- it’s going to be needed,” said John Kuzin, Qualcomm vice president-spectrum policy. “That’s why the industry and the government are laser-focused on the 3.1-3.45 spectrum band,” he said.


NCTA, cable companies, public interest groups and CBRS users last week protested the CTIA study in a letter to the FCC and NTIA. “The innovative CBRS licensing framework has driven innovation in the next generation of wireless networks,” they said: “These networks advance investment, protect critical U.S. leadership and security by enabling ongoing [DOD] and Federal missions in shared bands, drive innovation and competition, and maximize efficient use of the limited yet essential spectrum resource. Every day, more devices, services, and organizations require access to a wider array of spectrum resources. Implementing approaches that promote a wide variety of advanced communications applications will powerfully advance the public good.”

New Street’s Blair Levin noted the fight over CBRS in a weekend research note, saying it may be helpful to arguments for bipartisan legislation allocating at least part of the 3.1 GHz band for exclusive use. “By the time policy makers have to decide on how to proceed on allocating more bands for commercial use, we think there will be a far more robust record on the pros and cons of shared spectrum and the CBRS model, making the current debate interesting but not conclusive,” he said.