Access to New Spectrum in the Sharing Economy: WIA to Host Webinar on the FCC’s New 3.5 GHz CBRS Spectrum Sharing Rules

By K.C. Halm and Van Bloys, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is on the verge of finalizing plans to make available an additional 150 megahertz of spectrum for commercial use under its new shared spectrum policy known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or “CBRS” spectrum. In the very near future, likely during its open meeting in October, the agency is expected to finish its rules governing both licensed and unlicensed access to this valuable new mid-band spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. The FCC will enable access to this spectrum through an innovative spectrum-sharing regime that permits both licensed and unlicensed spectrum users to operate and co-exist in the same band. Like so many other shared assets, spectrum will soon be one more part of the sharing economy.

To ensure that WIA members are fully briefed on this opportunity to access valuable mid-band spectrum, WIA is hosting a webinar soon that will feature experts from Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

Labelled the “grand experiment” by some, the innovative spectrum-sharing regime underlying the new CBRS rules will assign spectrum usage rights based on three tiers of users: 1) incumbents; 2) licensed users; and 3) unlicensed (or general access) users. Mediating the spectrum access and use between these three tiers of providers will be new entities employing advanced spectrum sharing algorithms and databases known as Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators. These SAS administrators will act as “traffic cops” to ensure that spectrum users can operate and co-exist with other users in the band with minimal interference.

Several current WIA members are already testing equipment and use cases for CBRS spectrum. Utilizing experimental licenses issued by the FCC, companies like Crown Castle, American Tower, SBA Communications, and ExteNet Systems, as well as carrier members, are all working to develop networks that can leverage this powerful new mid-band spectrum.

Indeed, access to CBRS spectrum was an issue of significant interest to attendees at WIA’s recent Connectivity Expo last May, with eight different panels and sessions devoted exclusively to this important topic. WIA is working to continue similar learning opportunities by hosting its next webinar with experts from Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

The CBRS webinar will provide attendees a background on the service rules for using CBRS spectrum, including a discussion of the three-tiered sharing regime, mediation responsibilities of the SAS providers, and rules for CBRS devices operating in this environment. The webinar will also break down the FCC’s anticipated decisions governing key licensing issues, including the size of license areas, the term of such licenses, and the rules for selling or leasing this spectrum on the so-called “secondary” market. In addition, attendees will also learn of potential use cases that CBRS is expected to enable, and how WIA members can avail themselves of the opportunities arising from this new spectrum opportunity.

Be on the lookout for further details on this webinar.