FCC moves toward 'historic' spectrum sharing plan

Commissioners vote to open up 3.5GHz spectrum band to commercial use in the coming years

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has approved what some commissioners called a "historic" plan to allow private mobile broadband services to share spectrum with incumbent military users.

The FCC voted Friday to approve its so-called Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) plan to open up wireless frequencies from 3550MHz to 3700MHz to new users, including new devices that could use the spectrum like current devices use Wi-Fi.

Commercial access to the spectrum may still be years away, and the FCC has several sticky issues it needs to resolve, including questions about the best ways to limit inference between users in the band. But with little new spectrum available to satisfy skyrocketing demand for mobile data services, some commissioners hailed the spectrum-sharing plan as a new model for dealing with a spectrum shortage.

"Since they don't make spectrum anymore, and since spectrum is the pathway of the 21st century, we have to figure out how we're going to live with a fixed amount," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. "Clearly, sharing is key to that."

With the CBRS proposal, the commission abandons "the tired notion" that it must choose between licensed and unlicensed spectrum, added Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

"This is a paradigm shift that paves the way for new services, new technologies and more mobile broadband," she said. "This is big."

The 3.5GHz band is now used mostly by Army and Navy radar systems and satellite equipment. Under the CBRS plan, those incumbent users would share the band with unlicensed users who would gain access by buying an authorized mobile device. The agency also plans to auction short-term licenses to wireless service providers, who would have some protection from interference by the unlicensed users.

Three of the five FCC members expressed some concerns about the proposal, saying the agency has more work to do. In addition to approving the proposal, the FCC voted to open up a new round of public comment to address some continued questions.

The plan allows the U.S. Department of Defense to wall off areas covering about 40 percent of the nation's population into exclusion zones where other users aren't allowed, said Commissioner Ajit Pai. That's more geographic exclusion than is ideal for new services to flourish, he said.

One major question is whether technologies will develop that can manage the "dynamic interference scenarios" that are likely to pop up, Pai added. "It remains to be seen whether we can turn today's spectrum theory into a working reality," he said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags governmentmobileregulationtelecommunication4gU.S. Federal Communications CommissionU.S. Department of DefenseTom WheelerAjit PaiJessica Rosenworcel

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?