To Shared Spectrum and Beyond

The channel utilization that is under study in the U.S. and EU/CEPT.

Channel utilization is under study in the U.S. and EU/CEPT.

“This commission has moved a staggering amount of spectrum and really, kind of rezoned if you will, the EM (Electromagnetic) spectrum for the next couple of decades worth of applications,” stated Chuck Lukaszewski, Aruba/HPE.  Speaking as part of a virtual panel, Lukaszewski expressed his appreciation for the FCC’s bipartisan work in this endeavor and how it will be a catalyst for new applications for decades to come, starting as soon as the end of this year*.

WISPA’s Richard Bernhardt echoed Lukaszewski, with an optimistic outlook for what new spectrum initiatives, such as CBRS, and WiFi 6E, offer his members as tools to extend broadband to rural and suburban locales.  Bernhardt sees even more spectrum opening in the future as the impending NTIA report will detail more opportunities for sharing spectrum that heretofore has been government agency exclusive use.

He also referenced some of the temporary measures the FCC has taken to allow WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Providers) to meet COVID-induced demand due by using spectrum that is effectively fallow in certain locations. COVID-19 may indirectly jump-start this effort, as FCC Commissioner O’Reilly asked the White House (PDF) to fast-track efforts to free up spectrum from government to commercial uses.

The incumbents are depicted in this table extracted from the FCC Report and Order.

Summary of 6 GHz incumbents from the FCC Report and Order.

And sharing is a must if you are going to improve access to spectrum, emphasized Kelly Drye and Warren partner, Chip Yorkgitis.  The Federal government perceives the need for spectrum sharing, according to Yorkgitis. For instance, the recent Appendix by NTIA sent to Congress and shared with the FCC makes recommendations for reforming the Spectrum Relocation Fund (SRF) to enable more unlicensed and licensed by rule access of spectrum.

Spectrum sharing is working as evidenced by the rollout of CBRS. which formally kicked off on January 27th, a day before the WCA panel on spectrum sharing. Since that time, thousands of CBRS base stations have been installed and there have been no reports of interference for this groundbreaking spectrum sharing effort, says Google’s Andrew Clegg.

Google is a Spectrum Access Manager (SAS), which is sort of a traffic cop to ensure interference-free sharing of CBRS spectrum. Clegg’s message for those wishing to participate in the upcoming CBRS PAL (Priority Access License) auction is to quickly do your homework (CBRS Alliance is good place to start), as you only have until May 7th to submit your short-form application (it goes online on 4/23/20).


‘Added 04/13/20 

Using a third-party neutral host provider to share CBRS radio infrastructure is what CoBank, a lender to entities that build rural infrastructure, suggests in a newly released report. Their approach would stretch limited government dollars to help bring broadband to more rural places, as compared to the traditional model where each carrier builds their own end-to-end network.


The power levels for various devices and where they can be used is provided.

Power levels for various devices and where they can be used.

In many ways, CBRS lays the groundwork for the immense opportunity of WiFi 6E and the anticipated 1.2 GHz of bandwidth that will be available for outdoor and indoor use. Clegg says that the spectrum management associated with the WiFi 6E, AFC (Automatic Frequency Coordination) will be easier than CBRS, as, unlike CBRS, the existing transmitters are fixed (unlike CBRS where the SAS has to account for transmitters on naval vessels, which come and go).

All the panelists are enthusiastic about the 6 GHz band as its wide bandwidth, different power levels, and versatile channel arrangements will foster new indoor and outdoor applications.  A unanimous vote is expected by the FCC Commission at its April 23rd meeting, with a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on increasing the power of indoor devices that operate without AFC and to explore how it might be used for very low-power devices.

These very low-power devices are envisioned as IoT devices around a home or office. They could just easily be a cable replacement; literally replacing a cable between, say a TV and a PC, to allow for high speed, real-time, low latency transmission of video, like the video, above.

A projected timeline for the rollout of WiFi 6E is given.

A partial timeline for the rollout of WiFi 6E.

The impact of this spectrum remains to be seen, but, if looking at the past is an indication, the future of 6 GHz is bright. Richard Bernhart says that when the original WiFi spectrum was released for unlicensed use, it was seen as garbage. He says that it has since gone on to create more than $1 Trillion in value.

Lukaszewski ended the panel on an optimistic note praising the FCC for leading the world in freeing spectrum,

“We will look back on this as a really, really significant time and this particularl commission has been particulary effective in setting the table for the rest of the world to follow.”


*See Lukaszewski’s excellent blog post on the topic at this link.


Time Code Highlights

(click on a link below to open a new window and jump to that part of the conversation)

02:03 – Lukaszewski provides an overview/update of the 6 GHz band (aka WiFi 6E order) the proposed FCC Report and Order on it

08:10  – What are the anticipated power levels for WiFi 6E devices in Europe?

09:47 – Yorkgitis provides a Washington perspective on the proposed WiFi 6E order and who the incumbents in the 6 GHz band are.

20:15 Clegg talks about the successful rollout of CBRS and the impending auction, which has been moved from June to July 23rd and what organizations need to do to prepare for the auction. He also provides a link to a document called the CBRS Incumbent Protections and Emcumberances Overview.

27:48 – Berndhart provides an update of the efforts WISPA members are making to connect people including using CBRS, WiFi and, even frequencies reserved for DSRC.

32:32 – Bernhardt talks about the Part 90, Subpart C licenses that cover 3,650 to 3,700 MHz and that have been grandfathered to at October phaseout to make way for CBRS license regime (with some getting extensions to 2023).  He indicates WISPS will need to sign up with a SAS and contract with a Certified Professional Installer (CPI) to do the transition (assuming the equipment can make the transition).

35:49 – He discusses the July 23rd CBRS auction and what must be done in preparation.

38:53 – Will the release of  6 GHz deflate the value of other spectrum bands (e.g. will people hold off on PALs, if they see 6 GHz in the future? The consensus seemed to be it will create a bigger pie.  Clegg points out that different rules for parameters, such as power transmission, create different value for each spectrum band (e.g. up to 50 Watts for certain CBRS devices versus 4 Watts for 6 GHz, AFC controlled devices).

46:31 – The timeline is discussed again in a holistic manner from regulatory to availability of devices to the creation of organizations that serve as AFCs.

53:26 – Will SAS providers also be AFCs?

56:25 – How are incumbents going to react to the Report and Order?

58:27 – What about rumors about Covid-19 and 5G asks someone in the YouTube chat menu?

01:02:06 – What sort of devices are available for CBRS?

01:05:00 – What sort of organizations are putting in CBRS networks and what is the business model?

01:07:54 – Another question on the YouTube chat. Is there any chance there will be more spectrum available later in Europe?

01:11:07 – The panelists provide their closing comments