Three ways that PALs differ from traditional spectrum licenses

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum will not only help U.S. mobile network operators to manage their own traffic better, but will enable many new market entrants, according to a new report from the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

The WIA report outlines the basics of the three-tiered CBRS spectrum-sharing framework which covers the 150 megahertz of spectrum at 3.55-3.7 GHz. It calls CBRS “a perfect addition to the midband 5G spectrum portfolio for cellular and cable operators as well as other new entrants.”

Licensing in the band, the report adds, is “neither exclusive nor completely open unlicensed spectrum,” but a hybrid approach that “[marries]elements of licensed and unlicensed use in a novel sharing regime. … The hallmark principle of the CBRS band is that usage rights are available on an opportunistic basis — spectrum in the band is generally available for commercial use on a use-it-or-lose-it basis.” .

CBRS has three tiers of access: incumbents or Tier 1, which includes naval radar systems and satellite users, as well as some broadband wireless users through April of this year. The second tier consists of Priority Access Licenses, which will be auctioned by the Federal Communications Commission in June; PALs will account for 70 megahertz of the total 150 megahertz. The third tier is General Authorized Access, who can use the remaining 80 megahertz of spectrum opportunistically and can also access PALs spectrum when it’s not being used by a PAL licensee.

The upcoming PALs auction will have the largest number of licenses available ever offered in an FCC auction: more than 22,600, or seven PALs per U.S. county. Each PAL will consist of a 10 megahertz unpaired channel at 3.55-3.65 GHz. Bidders can bid on up to four PALs per license area and aggregate those. But bidders should also be away that “PALs are unlike other traditional spectrum licenses, for several reasons,” the  WIA report said, explaining that those reasons include:

-PALs won’t be issued for specific channel blocks within the license area; instead, they grant “the right to use a 10-megahertz channel block that will be assigned dynamically by [Spectrum Access System] providers.” SAS providers assign specific channels on a dynamic basis in order to accommodate other users and protect incumbents.

-PALs are governed by a “use it or share it” principal. If a PAL licensee isn’t using the spectrum channel block(s) that they win, GAA users can operate in that spectrum.

-PAL licensees have the “unique obligation,” as WIA put it, of having to register their CBRS-related network devices with a SAS provider before operating those devices in the band.

―RCR Wireless News

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