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FCC Extends CBRS Equipment Certification Deadline

The FCC has given CBRS users in the 3.65 GHz band extra time to comply with requirements that they have properly certified equipment. Those users supply high-speed broadband, including to rural areas.

Back in 2015, the FCC gave those operators until April 17, 2020. But given the current coronavirus crisis, the FCC said Thursday (March 19) that it would now give them until Oct. 17, 2020 to come into compliance. The FCC said it would not impact the planned June 25 auction of priority access licenses (PALs) in the 3.5 GHz band.

Related: FCC Approves Framework for CBRS Band Auction

The FCC wants to make sure that, among other things, rural broadband customers don't lose service, "something especially important given the role Internet connectivity will play in keeping us safe and in touch with the world during the COVID-19 pandemic," said WISPA, the wireless internet association that had asked for the blanket extension, though the FCC's Wireless Bureau issued the extension on its own motion.

“This is a logical delay of the transition during the pandemic to ensure that current licensees, like WISPs and electric utilities, can keep their eyes on the ball when it comes to helping consumers," said FCC chair Ajit Pai. "We can allow this flexibility while still maintaining a reasonable timeline for this transition."

WISPA explained why, after five years to come into compliance, the extension was needed. "The complexity and several year delay of certifying, developing and integrating numerous interdependent parts to make the CBRS band a reality threw the overall transition process off schedule and out of kilter," it said. "The CBRS band only recently saw full commercial deployment, two years behind what was anticipated. This had a cascading effect on the rest of the process, with the hardware, software and services ecosystem just now coming online. Further, WISPs recently learned that some popular pieces of equipment they employ in the 3.65 GHz band will never become CBRS compliant. The COVID-19 crisis has only added to these challenges, limiting supply of CBRS-compliant gear."

The Wireless Bureau said the CBRS Part 90 licensees affected "will have more time to transition and can use this period to remain focused on keeping Americans connected."

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.