The 3.5 GHz Era Arrives

Carl Weinschenk

Last week, we learned about tests of what is called OpenG technology. The testing, which involves six companies, is being done under the umbrella of a coalition called the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) Alliance. The goal is to use the technology to improve indoor wireless communications, Computerworld says.

The issue is thorny because it involves spectrum being agilely shared between commercial and non-commercial users. That goal, and the technology that will be used to implement it, is significant, observers say. The members of the alliance are Google, Ruckus Wireless, Qualcomm, Nokia, Intel and Federated Wireless.

The focus now shifts to Kansas City, Missouri, which has approved multiple 18-month tests of the technology. Google is talking with Ruckus about conducting the tests.

The spectrum is complex terrain. A portion is used by the U.S. Navy to communicate with jets launched from aircraft carriers. Federated Wireless is installing radio sensors along the United States coast to detect these transmissions and, when they occur, automatically switch other users, which could eventually be hundreds of thousands of cellphones, to other frequencies.  Both Federated and Google are working on the agile technology, which utilizes Spectrum Allocation Server (SAS) technology.


Somewhat less dramatically, alliance members are talking to carriers to link their networks to 3.5GHz spectrum. Ruckus plans to commercialize the service with enterprise products. The preliminary goal will be to improve coverage within buildings.

3.5GHz connectivity is important in and of itself and because of the SAS switching technology, Computerworld says:

Once sharing of the 3.5GHz spectrum is proven, the FCC is expected to look to allow sharing on other portions of wireless spectrum. Spectrum regulators in other countries are watching the results of the trials. In order to use the 3.5GHz spectrum, smartphones and other wireless devices will have to be updated. By 2018, Martin predicted, the technology will become "fairly widely available."

The 3.5GHz spectrum is becoming an increasingly hot topic because it has gained final approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In late April, the FCC reaffirmed or, in essence, gave final approval, for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. The reaffirmation contains some changes, but they seem to be minor. It set the stage for what the FCC press release called the next steps, which include certifying SAS administrators and Environmental Sensing Capability operators and, eventually, running a spectrum auction.

Anything having to do with spectrum is by nature contentious, however, and the 3.5GHz spectrum is no different. FierceWireless reports that the CTIA “failed to put into place appropriate incentives and protections for licensed users and risks undermining the success of its spectrum sharing model.”

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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