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NRTC Joins Coalition Proposing CBRS Licensing Compromise

Randy Sukow May 11, 2018

NRTC CEO Tim Bryan is among 20 executives from rural, industrial and wireless-industry organizations proposing a compromise to the question of geographic licensing in the 3.5 GHz Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS). The coalition seeks to balance the goals of large national mobile carriers seeking to deploy 5G networks with other potential CBRS licensees, including wireless internet providers working to close the rural broadband coverage gap.

“The Commission should seek a genuine compromise solution that allows all parties a meaningful opportunity to obtain access to resources within the band,” the group said in a letter to the FCC earlier this week. “With the formation of the CBRS Coalition, an extraordinarily wide-ranging group of stakeholders with different spectrum use cases has come together in support of a straightforward, balanced compromise framework that achieves this goal.”

Coalition proposals center around the CBRS Priority Access Licenses (PALs), the class of 3.5 GHz licenses that are not currently held by incumbents and eventually would be available in a future spectrum auction. Large carriers favor auctioning PALs by comparatively large Partial Economic Areas (PEAs). The coalition is proposing a mix of large and small geographic areas, with terms including:

  • Five county-based PALs available for auction in every U.S. county.
  • Two census-tract-based PALs available at auction in every census tract in every U.S. county.
  • Seven-year license terms for each PAL.
  • PALs renewable based on performance criteria.

The county-based licenses, the coalition says, “will meet the business and operational requirements of commercial mobile wireless carriers, cable companies, and other broadband providers serving rural areas that desire larger license areas.” The census-tract licenses would serve the needs of a large number various potential licensees, including rural broadband providers serving remote areas.

Earlier this spring, Bryan was part of a group that met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and other Commission officials to discuss the importance of CBRS to rural America. Others in that group included NRECA and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. Both NRECA and NTCA also are part of the CBRS Coalition, along with several other organization representing rural interests and/or electric utilities: Edison Electric Institute, Exelon Corp., Rural Wireless Association, and Utilities Technology Council.

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