Multiple U.S. trials underway for shared 3.5GHz wireless spectrum

Six tech companies to test shared spectrum by the end of this year

Six technology companies, including Google, are working on trial projects in multiple U.S. cities to test out shared 3.5GHz spectrum wireless communications under an innovative model adopted recently by the Federal Communications Commission.

The companies are working in an coalition that is tentatively being called the CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) Alliance, which borrows the CBRS terminology from the FCC. Some of the companies in the alliance have already demonstrated what they call OpenG technology, which uses 3.5GHz shared spectrum to improve indoor wireless communications.

In April, Kansas City, Mo., approved a Google test of 3.5GHz shared wireless in more than eight locations in that area for up to 18 months.

Ruckus Wireless, one of the other six alliance members with Google, is in talks to join with Google in the KC tests, said Steve Martin, general manager of emerging technology at Ruckus, in an interview. He said there will be "multiple" trials of the technology in other U.S. cities by the end of 2016, but would not disclose the cities involved.

The other members of the alliance are Qualcomm, Nokia, Intel and Federated Wireless. Both Google and Federated Wireless are working on the Spectrum Allocation Server (SAS) portion of the CBRS service. SAS machines will use algorithms to detect when a priority transmission by the U.S. Navy is on a certain channel, then divert other users already on that channel to another.

The U.S. Navy uses narrow channels in the 3.5Ghz spectrum to communicate -- via radar flight guidance -- with jets launched from aircraft carriers along U.S. coastal areas. Federated Wireless is installing radio sensors up and down U.S. coast lines that can instantly detect the Navy's communications, then transit that information to the SAS devices to automatically require potentially hundreds of thousands of end-user cell phones to switch to a different channel.

The alliance is also working with various U.S. carriers that would connect their cellular service to the free, public 3.5GHz spectrum. Ruckus plans to provide a family of 3.5GHz products that enterprises could buy to improve cellular connections in-building, including antennas to snap onto Wi-Fi access points. The purpose of the trial projects will be to make sure products from various vendors interoperate and to ensure that the SAS devices reliably switch channels away from the priority Navy signals.

"With the FCC's act, the U.S. is the first country to promote and develop and formalize the dynamic sharing of spectrum and it's quite revolutionary," Ruckus' Martin said in an interview. "The expectation by the FCC is very bullish."

Once sharing of the 3.5GHz spectrum is proven, the FCC is expected to look to allow sharing on other portions of wireless spectrum. Spectrum regulators in other countries are watching the results of the trials. In order to use the 3.5GHz spectrum, smartphones and other wireless devices will have to be updated. By 2018, Martin predicted, the technology will become "fairly widely available."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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