Alphabet Access, Nokia, Intel, Qualcomm, Ruckus Wireless (Brocade) form Citizens Radio Broadband Service (3.5 GHz) alliance

by Scott Bicheno & edited by Alan J Weissberger

Six of the world’s biggest technology companies have joined forces in order to work out how best to exploit the 150 MHz of unlicensed spectrum that has been made available for commercial use.

The spectrum is in the 3.5 GHz band (specifically 3550-3700 MHz) and is being referred to as the Citizens Radio Broadband Service, so the joint effort is called the CBRS Alliance. The founding members consist of: Google, Intel, NokiaQualcomm,Ruckus Wireless and Federated Wireless. This partnership was first publicly discussed back at MWC this year but it seems to have taken them half a year to get their act together.

The availability of the 3.5 GHz band has been spoken about for a while, but the rules governing the coexistence of incumbent users with new entrants were only formalised earlier this year. The presence of a significant chunk of unlicensed spectrum so close to licensed bands has intrigued many companies, recently causing Google to reassess is fibre plans.

“There is ever-growing demand for LTE-based solutions in 3.5 GHz bands and expansion of the wireless footprint,” said Neville Meijers, VP of small cells for Qualcomm and chairman of the board for the CBRS Alliance. “Working together, the CBRS Alliance aims to enable the entire industry to address demand by expanding the capacity of new technologies.”

“Working together, the Alliance will ultimately build LTE-based solutions for the CBRS band – creating one of the many paths that will make it possible to help meet challenges associated with the coming data capacity crunch, which experts predict will reach over 30 exabytes per month by 2020,” blogged Intel’s Shawn Covell who moved there from Qualcomm.

“Federated Wireless has been instrumental in leading the creation of the shared spectrum ecosystem that will enable carriers and enterprises to seamlessly and cost effectively alleviate the challenges of sharing and managing spectrum while improving the performance and capacity of wireless networks for their customers,” said Iyad Tarazi, CEO of Federated Wireless. “The CBRS Alliance can be a critical driver to the success of the shared spectrum deployment in the CBRS band, which we believe has great potential to drive innovation, support new business models and spur economic growth.”

This move brings together two prevailing trends in the wireless industry right now: the exploitation of unlicensed spectrum and the formation of partnerships. It speaks volumes about the potential of this resource that so many industry heavyweights are staking a claim but you do have to wonder why the likes of AT&T and Verizon aren’t part of the gang.

In February, the companies announced their commitment to build an ecosystem of industry participants and make LTE-based solutions in the CBRS band widely available. This followed the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling for CBRS, which opened 150 MHz of spectrum (3550-3700 MHz) for commercial use. The Alliance also actively supports the Wireless Innovation Forum’s efforts to develop and drive the adoption of standards around the unique aspects of operation in the CBRS band, which include providing standardized radio interfaces to the spectrum access system (SAS), interfaces between SASs, protection of federal and incumbent use operations, and managing the coexistence among those sharing the band.

With the impending allocations of 3400-3600 MHz for IMT in several countries, there is increased demand for LTE solutions worldwide, creating economies of scale. The Alliance believes that LTE-based solutions in the CBRS band, utilizing shared spectrum, can enable both in-building and outdoor coverage and capacity expansion at massive scale. In order to maximize CBRS’s full potential, the CBRS Alliance aims to enable a robust ecosystem towards making LTE CBRS solutions available.

The Alliance will work towards LTE CBRS field trials in the second half of this year and is developing an official certification process towards successful deployments of CBRS infrastructure.

Google’s CRBS member is Alphabet’s Access, which is focused on increasing access to fast, abundant Internet through efforts such as Google Fiber and wireless initiatives.

Contact: CBRS Alliance

Elizabeth Conroy-Yockim
[email protected]