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GE wants to test CBRS in the air

Non-traditional operators eye CBRS spectrum for enterprise IoT, LTE networks

GE has asked the Federal Communications Commission for special permission to test Citizens Broadband Radio Service using an airborne mobile unit. The company said the tests will be conducted next month in Niskayuna, NY. The mobile unit will be airborne within 1,500-foot radius of the base station, and will fly at a maximum altitude of 250 feet above ground level, according to GE.

“Although not currently permitted it is expected that future airborne CBRS operations within restricted corridors (private commercial property) will be permitted for rural industrial applications without causing interference of other nearby users,” the company wrote in its filing.

Currently, mobile high-powered Department of Defense radar systems on airborne platforms operate in the CBRS band, according to the FCC. These radar systems are used in conjunction with weapons control systems and for the detection and tracking of air and surface targets. The U.S. Army also uses the band for a firefinder system to detect enemy projectiles, and the Air Force uses it for airborne radar station keeping equipment, to assist pilots in formation flying and to support drop-zone training.

The FCC is preparing to auction part of the CBRS band to wireless carriers and others who want to operate wireless networks using the 3550 – 3700 MHz spectrum bands. This spectrum is expected to be suitable for private internet of things networks operated by enterprise users, if the government ends up auctioning it in units small enough for private network operators to afford.

T-Mobile US has filed a petition for rulemaking urging the Federal Communications Commission to auction all 150 megahertz of spectrum in the CBRS band as priority access licenses, with general authorized access use allowed “opportunistically throughout the band.” The carrier wants the government to define the priority access licenses (PALs) by partial economic areas, which are larger than the areas currently proposed. If the FCC follows T-Mobile’s suggestion, enterprises that want to establish private IoT networks using CBRS might have less choice when it comes to which wireless carrier they will use, because the spectrum in their area might be assigned to one carrier’s priority access license.

The FCC has already closed comments on T-Mobile’s filing, and reply comments are due tomorrow, August 8.

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