“RETAINING 3.5 GHZ RULES SEEN AS BOON TO RURAL AREAS, INNOVATION”
Reprinted with permission - TR Daily, September 20, 2017
Although mobile operators want the FCC to change its 3.5 gigahertz band rules to promote 5G deployment, representatives of rural interests, building and hotel owners, and competing carriers today argued that the proposed rule changes would derail an opportunity to enable smaller carriers to serve rural areas and provide innovative in-building services that are unlikely to come from national carriers.
CTIA and T-Mobile US, Inc., filed petitions for rulemaking urging the FCC to modify the priority access license (PAL) framework in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) established in the 3550-3700 megahertz band so a PAL term will be 10, rather than, three years with an expectation of renewal, and PAL areas will consist of partial economic areas (PEAs) rather than census tracts. The entities also asked the FCC to mandate protection of Spectrum Access System device registration information, allow all PALs to be available at auction, and permit parties to bid on specific PAL blocks.
At an event today on "Auctioning America’s Wireless Future: Will 5G be Restricted to Big Mobile Carriers?" held by the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, Steve Sharkey, vice president-technology and engineering policy at T-Mobile, said his company's proposal "came out of what we were seeing around the globe, this band being one of the key bands for 5G technology. ... We felt we were missing an opportunity to be a leader."
But several panelists opposed the T-Mobile approach, calling for the FCC to stay the course with its rules to ensure more competition and better options, particularly in rural areas and within buildings.
Steve Coran, FCC counsel at the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association , said, "We have a rural broadband problem in the United States. CBRS offers the best opportunity to use spectrum as infrastructure to serve these folks." Mr. Coran said he has members operating in the band that could "flip a switch and make a software upgrade" and switch to CBRS, adding bandwidth and interference protection.
Preston Marshall, principal systems architect at Alphabet Access, said the "way we build networks today is not keeping up with the way we use networks today, particularly indoors."
If all the frequencies are auctioned with "perpetual rights," Mr. Marshall said "we'll be walking away from the problem we need to solve."
To Mr. Sharkey, Mr. Marshall said, "Your own CEO got up and said indoors should be the building owner’s problem. Here's an opportunity for building owners to step up," but he said the T-Mobile petition works counter to that goal.
The FCC's approach "created an innovation bed for everybody," Mr. Marshall added later in the discussion. "It also created an opportunity for rural areas.
"The proposals that are on the table from the mobile carriers are a zero-sum game," he said. They would set up 5G opportunities for the mobile carriers, but "rural areas won't get built out," he said.
Colleen King, VP-regulatory affairs at Charter Communications, Inc., said making the band "look like every other band" would be "good for the carriers, but not for the new entrants."
Ms. King added that Charter believes there may be room for compromise on the size of geographic blocks for licensing. Partial economic areas are "way too big," she said. "Census tracts are a little difficult operationally."
"We're open to compromise if some of kind of middle ground can be found," Ms. King said. "In certain areas, counties would be great, but others think that's still too big."
The size of the licensing areas was one of the key concerns raised on an earlier panel at today’s event. The session featured panelists making the case for retaining the FCC's rules to enable better service and innovation in rural areas and within buildings.
Michael Fitzpatrick, head-regulatory advocacy at General Electric Co., said the FCC's policy "catalyzes the potential of the industrial Internet." He noted a range of Internet of things applications that further the national interest.
"When we saw this spectrum and this innovative idea being introduced, we were all on board," Mr. Fitzpatrick said. "Spectrum is a precious national resource. This policy helps the national interest in so many areas."
Mr. Fitzpatrick also stressed that the applications aren't far off into the future. "This is happening now," he said. "This isn't speculative."
Jill Canfield, VP and assistant general counsel at NTCA, said wireless is a key component for rural carriers to reach sparsely populated areas.
"In order to make this a continued solution for our members, spectrum has to be affordable and just for the territory they're looking to serve," Ms. Canfield said. But if forced to compete in an auction against the likes of Verizon Communications, Inc., and T-Mobile, rural carriers "will not win," she said.
"We're talking about opening this spectrum band to a business plan only for the nation's largest providers," Ms. Canfield said. The CTIA and T-Mobile petitions have the "potential to completely upend what I think is going to be a very useful and creative resource for small companies serving rural areas."
Cris Kimbrough, managing director-in-building solutions at CBRE Telecom Advisory Services, said that once the spectrum gets on the "radar" of commercial real estate providers, there are a number of use cases that would be possible. In recent meetings, two major clients were focused on delivering IoT, smart building technology, building automation systems, and similar in-building services that enable CBRE to "better manage their properties for them," Ms. Kimbrough said.
Patrick Dunphy, chief information officer of the Hospitality Technology Next Generation, said the primary use case for his members is redistributing networks within hotels.
"My hope is in-building cellular will be deployed like Wi-Fi in the near future," Mr. Dunphy said. "Longer-term, I think there will be HVAC building management systems and quite a bit more focus on Internet of things, hopefully with players like IBM."
"If this licensing band is simply available only to people with billions of dollars to spend on spectrum, we're going to lose out and lose out bad," Mr. Dunphy said. —Brian Hammondj
Reprinted with permission of TR Daily, All Rights Reserved.
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