The small cell market is set for a boost from the Federal Communications Commission, which today unveiled a notice of proposed rulemaking to create a “Citizens Broadband Service” in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band that “will promote two major advances that enable more efficient use of radio spectrum: small cells and spectrum sharing.”
As part of the NPRM, the FCC is looking at whether it will be feasible to open up approximately 100 megahertz of spectrum in the 3550-3650 MHz bands for small cell technologies, possibly on an unlicensed basis. Currently, the most prolific unlicensed spectrum used for wireless services resides in the 2.4 GHz band that is used for Wi-Fi services.
The 3.5 GHz band is now in the hands of the Department of Defense for use in certain radar installations, as well as by “non-federal fixed satellite service earth stations for receive-only, space-to-earth operations and feeder links.” The somewhat limited propagation characteristics of the 3.5 GHz band are thought to be a good fit for the dense deployment plans for small cells and would likely limit interference with current users.
The FCC is also looking at potentially extending the spectrum allocation an additional 50 megahertz up to the 3700 MHz band. That spectrum band is currently used by the federal government in just a few locations.
The move to free up spectrum assets has been a primary venture at the FCC, which has been tasked with following up on President Obama’s 2010 memorandum to free up 500 megahertz of spectrum assets by 2020 for the mobile space. That memorandum followed the filing of the National Broadband Plan by the FCC with Congress.
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