As a child, my sisters and I loved when our father let us use his CB radio. We memorized the code of conduct: Rule #1 - be respectful, listen before speaking and don’t hog the channel. And we had humorous “handles” long before Twitter. CB radios gave me and my family a way to communicate over short distances, and we didn’t need a license for use of the radio waves.
Flash forward to today. We’ve come a long way from CB radios, and we all have more and more devices in our homes and offices connected to Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the airwaves allocated for this purpose have become congested.
The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission (or “Friendly Candy Company” in CB lingo) today took a step toward addressing this problem, by creating a new “Citizens Broadband Radio Service,” that makes some spectrum available for shared wireless broadband use in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band.
The FCC established three tiers of access in the 3.5 GHz band. The first tier is for incumbent access, including both federal and non-federal incumbents (like U.S. Navy radar operations and Fixed Satellite Service earth stations, respectively); the second is for “priority access licensees,” who will gain access by bidding for rights to use small chunks of spectrum for short periods of time; and the third tier is for unlicensed spectrum users in the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service.
Users of the spectrum might deploy “small cell” networks that can carry heavy loads of data in high-traffic areas -- such as crowded stadiums -- or offer fixed wireless broadband services in rural areas. Unlike the large scale infrastructure necessary to operate cellular networks that you see mounted on towers or tall buildings, these small cells are easy to deploy.
A key component to sharing in this band is the Spectrum Access System, which utilizes database technology to protect important federal government uses of spectrum. These systems will ensure that neither priority access or general consumer users interfere with the existing government and private users who will continue to need 3.5 GHz spectrum in a limited number of areas. They also will allow new users to share effectively with each other. Google has been a leader in using databases to free-up available spectrum, and we are one of the companies working to develop a sharing system for the 3.5 GHz band.
The additional spectrum that is now available in the 3.5 GHz band will help relieve Wi-Fi congestion – improving the experience of consumers accessing the Internet over wireless broadband. The Commission recognized today that we don’t have to allocate spectrum for only a single purpose the way the government did in the 1950s. This action will have an impact far beyond what we can imagine today. Creating this “innovation band” by opening the spectrum on a shared basis will advance the goal of wireless broadband abundance.
Catch ya on the flip-flop. We’re down’n gone.
Posted by Staci Pies, Senior Policy Counsel, Google