"All of the Above" Tells Us Very Little About Future Revenue Sources

When a new market is developing, and the answer to the question “where will the growth happen?” is “all the above,” we know we essentially have no idea what will happen. And that seems to be the case for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, which will support about 150 MHz of new spectrum in the 3.5 GHz range that can be used for mobile internet access, enterprise networks or other purposes we have not yet explored fully.

To a large extent, we might say they same about prospects for 5G, where “everyone” expects applications in the consumer smartphone internet access area, but also in the fixed internet access area, internet of things and low-latency applications areas.

Still, nobody can be too sure which of those use cases will be dominant, and when, though given the size of existing mobile internet access markets, 5G might well see the greater part of revenues in the “enhanced mobile broadband” area.

On the other hand, the most-significant new development could be huge new markets for pervasive computing (internet of things), representing billions of new connections.

It remains unclear how use cases and revenue models will develop for shared spectrum platforms such as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. At the moment, the conventional wisdom is that there will be opportunities in consumer and business markets, as primary or secondary access mechanisms, as indoor or outdoor networks.

CBRS obviously could be used to support consumer or business internet access, mobile or fixed wireless, enterprise apps, neutral host facilities that support indoor mobile access by all major mobile providers, or play other roles, such as allowing in-building access specialists (think Boingo) to support new indoor communications services.

In other words, more so than has been the case for general purpose mobile platforms, CBRS could enable industrial or vertical market applications for manufacturing, energy or healthcare, the Federal Communications Commission says.


The Citizens Broadband Radio Service uses a three-tiered access framework, dynamically managed in much the same way Television White Spaces networks work

CBRS uses three tiers: Incumbent Access, Priority Access, and General Authorized Access.

Incumbent Access users include authorized federal and grandfathered Fixed Satellite Service users currently operating in the 3.5 GHz Band. These users will be protected from harmful interference from Priority Access and General Authorized Access users.

The Priority Access tier consists of Priority Access Licenses (PALs) that will be assigned using competitive bidding within the 3550-3650 MHz portion of the band.

Each PAL is defined as a non-renewable authorization to use a 10 megahertz channel in a single census tract for three-years.

Up to seven total PALs may be assigned in any given census tract with up to four PALs going to any single applicant. Applicants may acquire up to two-consecutive PAL terms in any given license area during the first auction.

The General Authorized Access tier is licensed-by-rule to permit open, flexible access to the band for the widest possible group of potential users, on the Wi-Fi model.

General Authorized Access users are permitted to use any portion of the 3550-3700 MHz band not assigned to a higher tier user and may also operate opportunistically on unused Priority Access channels.


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