Next Steps For The 3.5 GHZ "Innovation Band"
As demand for mobile broadband spectrum continues to increase and existing resources become more and more congested, the FCC and industry have looked for new ways to share and improve the efficiency of spectrum. The 3.5 GHz band is poised to become a prime example of innovative, efficient spectrum use, where three types of users—government and satellite incumbents, mobile licensees, and Wi-Fi-like devices—coordinate their operations using a sophisticated spectrum access system (SAS) database. After receiving the FCC’s green light last year, the cable industry and many others have already begun to invest, test, and explore appropriate industry standards needed to bring this band online.
Consumers and network operators should both be excited about this new spectrum resource. For consumers, 3.5 GHz will mean faster, more reliable wireless broadband. A 3.5 GHz small cell could bring more capacity to today’s congested mobile networks, enabling more seamless video streaming and websurfing experiences, and could help extend signals into areas that were previously hard to reach. For network operators, the sooner 3.5 GHz is open for business, the sooner they can bring these improvements to market and improve connectivity for consumers across the board.
Cable operators are among the many businesses seeking to deliver a better mobile broadband experience using this “innovation band.” A wide variety of stakeholders—including some NCTA member companies —have banded together in organizations like the Wireless Innovation Forum and the CBRS Alliance to make the FCC’s vision for fast deployment of innovative small cell technologies a reality for consumers, beginning with 3.5 GHz. The availability of licenses for smaller geographic areas and shorter terms than in traditional licensed bands—plus lightly licensed spectrum made available for Wi-Fi-like use—presents unique business opportunities not available in any other band today. These opportunities will enable not only traditional network operators but also new entrants to the market, including individual businesses, factories, and building owners, to operate 3.5 GHz small cells.
We appreciate the FCC’s effort to attract a broad range of potential users by designing the 3.5 GHz band to promote flexible licensing and sophisticated sharing among a variety of technologies. NCTA recently joined several stakeholders in requesting that the FCC, as it contemplates a narrow set of rule changes, strive to preserve the unique features of this “innovation” band in order to maintain the industry’s momentum towards deployment. We look forward to working with the FCC on moderate rule changes that will continue to improve investment opportunities in the 3.5 GHz band, promote fast deployment, and retain the distinctive features of the band — smaller license sizes and shorter license terms — that keep barriers to entry low and incentivize new entrants and business models to deploy.