WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Citizens Broadband Radio Service launch keeps inching closer and closer, although no one knows exactly when it will happen. At the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance event this week in D.C., Federated Wireless representatives spoke hopefully of possible going commercial “in just a few short weeks.” So what, exactly, still needs to happen in order to get CBRS up and running?
Paul Powell, assistant division chief at the Federal Communications Commission’s Mobility Division, didn’t offer up any specific timelines when he participated in a panel discussion on CBRS use cases and opportunities, but he did go over what is left in the process.
The FCC has approved the first set of Environmental Sensing Capability operators to ensure that incumbent naval radars are protected along the coasts. The agency is now reviewing and moving forward on the approval of the first set of Spectrum Access System administrators and authorization for Initial Commercial Deployments.
The SASes, which enable the proper sharing and protection of users in the three-tiered CBRS framework, recently went through testing with Institute for Telecommunications Sciences; participants have been provided with their draft test reports. Final test reports are in process by ITS and those must be submitted for review by agencies including the FCC so that the SAS operators can receive authorization. (Federated Wireless, once it received that draft, submitted it to the FCC in an attempt to jump-start final review. Federated said in its letter to the FCC that its SAS passed all of the more than 1,000 tests conducted by the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences.)
Once the SAS operators are authorized, Initial Commercial Deployments (ICD) can begin. ICD is essentially formal field testing, although the networks will be considered commercial at that point. The WInnForum describes ICD as being used to prove the ability of Spectrum Access Systems and CBRS devices to perform properly in the field. It is a minimum period of 30 days, at which point a report on the results of ICD has to be submitted to the FCC for review.
Once the ICD data has been reviewed, the SAS operators can receive final certification and approval to operate for five years. That is the point at which CBRS is well and truly open for large-scale business.
“We have a few steps left to go, but we’re getting there,” Powell said.
Dave Wright, president of the CBRS Alliance and director of regulatory affairs and network standards for CommScope (which now owns Ruckus Wireless) was also a participant on the panel with Powell. He noted that in terms of the steps left, “there are a lot fewer than we have completed over the last 12 months.” He said that a recent CBRS Alliance event featured demonstrations of 31 CBRS devices that are either already certified for operation, or soon will be, ranging from flagship smartphones to customer premise equipment to IoT modules and gateways.
CBRS will launch initially with two of the three tiers of sharing enabled: incumbents, and General Authorized Access. The Priority Access tier will be licensed, but that auction is not expected to happen until 2020.