FCC sets rules on priority access licenses for CBRS spectrum
After a protracted process, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission finalized rules governing priority access to the shared 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service band. Prior to its vote, the operative issues were around the geographic size and timeframe on licensure. As expected, carriers wanted larger areas and longer terms whereas smaller interests wanted more localized coverage to support private networks for industrial facilities or corporate campuses, for instance.
PALs will cover county-size license areas, rather than census tracts; and they will have renewable license terms of 10 years. There are about 3,000 counties in the U.S. — compared to about 74,000 census tracts and 416 Partial Economic Areas. Seven PALs will be available in each license area, and the FCC will permit partitioning and disaggregation of PALs.
That last bit is key for non-carrier stakeholders in that it’s feasible to partition a license area in service of something like a neutral host in-building deployment or even an in-building implementation fully controlled by the building owner or facility manager.
For network infrastructure vendors, the in-building market is red hot, particularly the so-called “middleprise,” which generally refers to buildings less than 500,000-square-feet. The middleprise represents a huge addressable market that is largely underserved as carriers reserve their in-building capex for marquee venues like airports and stadiums.
But CBRS is one tool in an increasingly diverse kit, according to Jason Marcheck, principal analyst at Layne Bridge and Associates. “As venues, both large and small, move beyond the need to provide basic Internet connectivity, there will be an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to creating in-building wireless architectures capable of handing the demands of not only digital native companies and their employees, but also for IoT in general. Here is where new technologies such as CBRS and Wi-Fi 6 will need to serve as effective companions to DAS and small cells.”
Marcheck explored the in-building landscape, including the role of CBRS, in a recent report available for download here.