The Federal Communications Commission has authorized the commercial use of the mid-range 3.5GHz spectrum, according to a press release by the CBRS Alliance.
The 3.5GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum is being marketed under the name OnGo. Up until this ruling, the spectrum was reserved exclusively for the Department of Defense (DoD) and used extensively by the Navy.
OnGo is a pivotal piece of the U.S. 5G rollout, as it sits squarely in what is considered mid-band spectrum. Low-band spectrum, such as that being heavily deployed by T-Mobile, has the advantage of offering long range and excellent building penetration, but offers only marginally faster speeds than 4G LTE. High-band, mmWave spectrum offers speeds measured in gigabits but has extremely poor range and penetration. This is what Verizon has primarily invested in.
Mid-range spectrum, such as OnGo, can be used to improve speed and signal strength, first on 4G and then on 5G. The spectrum will effectively help bridge the gap between the long-range but slower low-band and the high-speed, mmWave spectrum.
According to the press release, “consumers now have access to improved wireless connectivity through OnGo-compatible mobile devices, including the Google Pixel 4, Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod, Samsung Galaxy S10, Apple iPhone 11, LG G8 ThinQ, and OnePlus 7 Pro, all of which are on the market today. The OnGo ecosystem is vast and opens a brand-new market for wireless communications and 5G services in the United States, touching rural broadband via fixed wireless providers (WISPs), enterprise IT, hospitality, retail, real estate, industrial IoT, and transportation, among other sectors.”
Because of OnGo’s previous status as protected spectrum, it can still be used by the DoD in times of emergency.
“To ensure that the DoD has continued access to the band, Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) networks have been deployed along the U.S. coast. The ESC networks operated by CommScope, Federated Wireless, and Google inform the SAS administrators to activate a protection zone and dynamically reassign users in the area to other parts of the band, thus protecting the incumbent’s use of the spectrum while maximizing availability of CBRS spectrum across coastal areas.”
The FCC’s decision is good news for consumers and businesses alike and will open up a wide range of wireless opportunities.