Creativity in the 3. 5 GHz Band: Creating a New Citizens Broadband Radio Service

Five years ago, the National Telecommunications plus Information Administration issued a report identifying possible spectrum bands for reallocation for commercial uses. In the document, it identified the 3550-3650 Megahertz band as a potential opportunity for future commercial use. At the time, there was fairly little commercial interest in this band. But some saw an opportunity to promote new wireless technologies, new business ideas, plus new spectrum management techniques to boost our nation’s broadband capacity. These days I circulated to my colleagues the draft Report and Order which will seize that opportunity by developing a new Citizens Broadband Radio Provider.

The 3. five GHz band is an innovation band. As a result of technological innovations and new concentrate on spectrum sharing, we can combine this with adjacent spectrum to create a 150 megahertz contiguous band previously unavailable for commercial uses. It provides an opportunity to try new innovations in spectrum licensing and access schemes to fulfill the needs of a multiplicity of users, simultaneously. And, crucially, we can perform all of this in a way that does not harm essential federal missions.

The draft Report and Order tools a three-tiered sharing paradigm, which we have explored in multiple models of notice and comment in the last two years. The lowest tier in the hierarchy, General Authorized Access (GAA), will be open to anyone with an FCC-certified device. Much like unlicensed bands, GAA will give you for zero-cost access to the spectrum by commercial broadband users. Within the Priority Access tier, users from the band can acquire at public sale targeted, short-duration licenses that provide disturbance protection from GAA users. Finally, on top of the hierarchy, incumbent federal plus commercial radar, satellite, and other users will receive protection from all Citizens Broadband Service users.

This new tiered sharing paradigm will be enabled by a Spectrum Entry System. The SAS takes an age-old role in spectrum management – the frequency coordinator – and updates it for the 21 st century through the use of cloud computing technology. Long gone are the days of an engineer working with pencil and protractor (not to say pocket protector) to coordinate users into a band.

Finally – a few words on safeguarding incumbent federal uses. America’s military uses this band for adnger zone systems that perform vital nationwide security missions. To protect these radars, previous reports suggested very large zones around the coasts within which industrial users could not operate. Thanks to an enormous amount of collaborative work with NTIA as well as the Department of Defense, these zones are now substantially smaller. More importantly, the draft Report and Order offers a roadmap, recommended by NTIA plus DoD, for operations within any region around the coast through the use of new messfühler technologies.

I look ahead to my fellow Commissioners’ feedback on the draft Report and Order. I believe it provides a peek of the future, and that future is very exciting indeed.

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