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FCC Says 3.5 GHz Services Are Good to Go

The FCC said it has approved four spectrum access system (SAS) administrators--CommScope, Federated, Google, and Sony--which paves the way for full-scale deployment of commercial 4G and 5G wireless broadband service in the 3.5 GHz band.

The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology, after consulting with the Defense Department and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said they had reviewed those administrator's reports on initial commercial deployment (ICD) and concluded they satisfied FCC rules and the SAS were authorized for a five-year term.  

"[W]e certify that the SASs of CommScope, Federated, Google, and Sony comply with our rules, and we approve each SAS for commercial operation subject to ongoing compliance with the Commission’s rules," the FCC said.  

The FCC is requiring that each SAS "protect current and future federal incumbent operations in and near the 3.5 GHz band." Those include Navy aircraft communications. 

Related: CBRS Specialist Federated Wireless Secures Another $51M in Funding 

The FCC voted 3-1 along party lines Oct. 23, 2018, to change the rules on licenses for the 3.5 GHz (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) band to make it more attractive for providers of 5G, which includes cable ops looking to up their mobile broadband game. The change was billed as a way to spur investment in the band and promote more efficient use, including for 5G. 

“The FCC has made it a priority to free up mid-band spectrum for advanced wireless services like 5G," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "[T]oday, I’m pleased to announce the latest step to achieve that priority. As with all of our efforts to execute on the 5G FAST plan, we’re pushing to get next-generation wireless services deployed in the 3.5 GHz band as quickly and efficiently as possible. I would like to thank Commissioner Mike O’Rielly for his leadership throughout this proceeding as well as the FCC staff and those in the private sector who have worked so hard to achieve this milestone.”

“NTIA’s groundbreaking engineering work and close collaboration with the FCC, DOD and industry played a critical role in opening up the 3.5 GHz CBRS band for next-generation wireless services,” said Douglas Kinkoph, NTIA Associate Administrator and acting head of the agency, which is the Trump Administration's primary telecom policy advisor. “New 5G and 4G operations in the band will create tremendous value for our nation – both in terms of their contributions to GDP and further strengthening U.S. leadership in wireless technologies. We look forward to seeing the new licensed services in the band, which provides an optimal balance of capacity and coverage and will facilitate rollout of 5G.” 

"Consumers now have access to improved wireless connectivity through OnGo-compatible mobile devices," said the CBRS Alliance, "including the Google Pixel 4, Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod, Samsung Galaxy S10, Apple iPhone 11, LG G8 ThinQ, and OnePlus 7 Pro, all of which are on the market today.

“Today, after years of development, full commercial deployment of CBRS shared spectrum is a real thing, not a dream," said Louis Peraertz, VP of policy for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association. "Thanks to all for making that happen. In particular, the FCC must be commended, too, for shepherding the process along, and seeing the immense promise that the CBRS sharing model can and will bring in our spectrum-constrained world. The ‘CBRS experiment’ works, its ‘thesis’ proven. We know that if it works in this complex band, other forms of sharing – such as in the C-Band, 5.9 GHz and 6 GHz bands – can and should go forward. We cannot wait to see what it will do for the band and for other spectrum, as it fosters the development of an innovative solutions ecosystem, inspires new wireless business models, and delivers a new generation of consumer products and services here and across the globe.”

Daniel Frankel contributed to this report.