They say that the best things are worth waiting for. Well, after many years of concerted effort by both government and industry, the FCC has announced plans for the launch of initial commercial service in the CBRS band later this year. This definitely qualifies as a “best thing” in my estimation. Commercial service will be an historic achievement – for dynamic coordination of spectrum, for federal/commercial sharing, for tiered prioritization of access, and for cooperative development between the Department of Defense and industry. Many organizations and entities deserve recognition for their significant roles in enabling this launch. At the risk of not being able to name everyone I would especially commend the work of the FCC Commissioners, FCC Office of Engineering and Technology (OET), FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB), NTIA, DoD, Department of the Navy, ITS, and Wireless Innovation Forum (WInnForum).
Of course, I’d also like to highlight the great work that the CBRS Alliance, through its members, has been doing over the last two years to help make commercial deployment possible. From the development of technical standards for LTE operation in the band, to raising market awareness of the broad range of applications for LTE solutions in the band, to the launch of the OnGo™ brand and certification program, to working with myriad partner alliances and associations, the Alliance has been razor focused on realizing the vision for commercial LTE-based services in this band. As an example, in late April representatives from the Alliance’s Board member companies met with the FCC, meeting first with the OET and WTB chiefs and their staffs and then meeting the following day with Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and his wireless advisor, Erin McGrath. We respectfully requested that commercial service be authorized in the band in 2018, believing it important that industry and government be able to mark and celebrate this achievement prior to year-end. We are extremely grateful to the leaders at the FCC, NTIA, and DoD who not only heard our request, but have expended a great deal of subsequent effort to craft the program for what is now known as Initial Commercial Deployment (ICD) as it was outlined in the Public Notice released on July 27th.
We are therefore very pleased that we now have the guidance from the Commission on the general parameters and proposal requirements for ICD. Looking forward, the Alliance will ensure that we are fully prepared to make the best use of the ICD opportunity to prove out the various systems, interfaces, and programs that will make full commercial service a reality as quickly as possible. In this regard, the Alliance’s OnGo™ certification program is proceeding at a rapid and increasing pace, with a growing number of participating Authorized Test Labs (ATLs). A range of CBSD devices have already been submitted for certification. Indeed, a few devices have successfully completed the ATL testing process and are now awaiting FCC review. We will also be looking at ways to ensure that some of the requisite supporting programs, such as the Certified Professional Installer (CPI) program, are ready for ICD. In addition, the Board has decided to make commercialization, and Initial Commercial Deployment specifically, the focus of our October member meeting in Chicago. We look forward to showcasing the upcoming OnGo™ deployments where our members and their customers will start taking advantage of this breakthrough technology and delivering innovative wireless solutions in commercial environments.
For additional details on ICD, please see the FCC Public Notice linked at the beginning of this blog, or look over the summary contained in the recent WInnForum press release.
We should all celebrate this significant milestone for commercial OnGo™ deployments, but also ensure that we make full use of the time leading up to ICD to ensure its complete success and a quick transition thereafter to full commercial service.