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Moving Closer to Making Spectrum Sharing at 3.5 GHz a Reality

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) to accommodate sharing in the 3.5 GHz band between incumbent users — mostly Navy radar systems — and a variety of new commercial users.

The technology that will power this sharing, a new kind of dynamic spectrum access system, didn’t exist when the FCC adopted the rulemaking three years ago. To help test this technology as it was being developed, the FCC sought out the independent technical expertise of NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS). The data gathered via these laboratory tests will be provided to the FCC to support its certification processes for eventual CBRS field operations.

We have made significant progress in our work on testing the two technical linchpins of these CBRS systems:  Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) sensors and Spectrum Access Systems (SAS). The ESC sensors are designed to alert the associated SASs when Federal radar systems are operating in the band, so that the SAS can take immediate action to manage the CBRS devices to prevent interference.

ITS has released a study guide for Spectrum Access System testing via GitHub. The guide consists of samples of tests that will be conducted on Spectrum Access Systems. The tests will include a wide variety of scenarios and situations to test the systems’ ability to manage CBRS devices.

ITS is also advancing its testing of ESC sensors and expects to complete the laboratory phase of testing ahead of schedule.

This is an exciting time for the future of spectrum-sharing technology. ITS has a 100-year history of performing independent research and engineering in telecommunications, and we are working efficiently and judiciously to make sharing in the 3.5 GHz band a reality as soon as possible.