The idea that an enterprise can get easy access to use CBRS spectrum to deploy their own LTE wireless networks is an exciting one. CBRS is a business and technological puzzle, and many pieces still need to come together for this novel approach to spectrum sharing to work. In this article we focus our attention on the various regulatory processes still ahead before OnGo systems go live as the terms and steps can be confusing.
The Spectrum Access System (SAS) solution is essentially a database that allows for dynamic spectrum management of the CBRS frequencies for the incumbent DoD/US Navy radar systems, PAL entities, and GAA users, and to eliminate interference issues between the various users.
There are currently eleven companies which have submitted registrations to the FCC to be SAS administrators, and they are divided into Wave 1 and Wave 2 applicants. These companies are listed in our report “CBRS: The Indoor Market Opportunity and Forecasts 2019-2024 “and designated with “W1” for Wave 1 and “W2” for Wave 2.
On December 21, 2016, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) and Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) conditionally approved seven companies which comprise the Wave 1 applicants.
Wave 2 applicants are still awaiting the ability to submit their SAS solutions for lab testing with NTIA and the Department of Defense (DoD). In May of 2019, the NTIA announced that it had completed lab testing for five SAS vendors from Wave 1. With the industry focusing on launching services, we believe that it may not be until the second half of 2020 before Wave 2 applicants are able to enter the lab testing phase.
CBRS is multi-phase process
For a SAS to be certified by the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS)/NTIA and be fully approved by the FCC, it must undergo several months of capability testing and review and pass major milestones. There are six major milestones for SAS capability/vendor certification by the ITS/NTIA and the FCC:
- ITS/NTIA Testing for SAS Vendor
- ITS/NTIA Test Report for SAS Vendor
- SAS Vendor Review
- FCC Test Report and Initial Commercial Deployment (ICD) Public Notice for SAS Vendor
- Initial Commercial Deployment (ICD) Field Testing/Review
- FCC ICD Report and Commercial Launch Public Notice
Upon conclusion of the ICD field trials and receipt of approval from the FCC via the Commercial Launch public notice, the SAS vendor is ready for commercial services. The ITS testing phase consists of five tranches from 0-4. Tranche 4 is currently optional, and the ITS/NTIA has not required any SAS vendors to undergo this phase if they have passed Tranche 3.
Upon the FCC reviewing the ITS/NTIA report and issuing an ICD public notice, the SAS vendor/administrator is able to enter the ICD field trials stage of certification. The purpose of the ICD is to complement controlled lab testing by providing a real-world environment to assess the aspects of an SAS that can’t be effectively verified in lab testing. The FCC wants to run each SAS through a comprehensive set of tests with actual CBRS devices (CBSDs) deployed in commercial settings. The time period for ICD is thirty days. At the end of the thirty-day period, the SAS vendor/administrator will submit a report to the FCC noting all of the test results and any variances for review and approval.
ICD tests include:
- Verifying that CBSDs can communicate with and register on the SAS
- Verifying CBSDs can seek and receive spectrum grants and suspend operations
- Verifying ESC-SAS-CBSD capability along coastal deployments
Due to the fact that Federated Wireless, Inc. is the only ESC network operator to have already deployed its entire ESC network within the continental U.S. coastline, it will be the only SAS vendor/administrator to also include this critical test within the ICD phase. However, at the time this article is published, the FCC announced that it has approved three ESC operators: CommScope, Google and Federated Wireless. Now it’s just a matter of getting the “SASes” approved as well.
In a recent blog entitled Final CBRS SAS test reports are complete, RCR Wireless News indicated that Final CBRS SAS test reports are complete and that the CBRS Alliance had been alerted by its SAS administrator members that they had received their official result reports from ITS, and that it expects all of them to submit those reports to the FCC within the next few days. More details are available in our recent report CBRS: The Indoor Market Opportunity and Forecasts 2019-2024.
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