Google’s Preston Marshall on company’s 3.5 GHz CBRS SAS system: ‘We’re probably the furthest along’

SAN FRANCISCO—Although it’s been relatively quiet on the topic lately, Google has been actively developing its SAS business for the CBRS 3.5 GHz band and expects to grow into a major player in the space. The company would then stand as a challenger to Federated Wireless, CTIA and other companies angling for a portion of the sector’s SAS business.

"I think everyone knows we're doing it,” said Google’s Preston Marshall, principal architect at Alphabet’s Access and a longtime proponent of spectrum sharing in the 3.5 GHz band. “We don't have to be quite as loud as others."

The FCC is poised to enact final rules on the 3.5 GHz band, dubbed the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, which would free 150 MHz for mobile broadband and other commercial uses. Current rules for the band would create three tiers of spectrum usage: one for incumbents, a Priority Access tier for licensed uses and a General Authorized Access tier for unlicensed uses. The three tiers are to be coordinated through dynamic Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators. Google is one of a handful of companies hoping to sell SAS services to companies looking to use 3.5 GHz spectrum.

RELATEDA year in, what’s happening with Google, Verizon, Nokia and the 3.5 GHz CBRS band?

"We're actively pursuing clients” for SAS services, Marshall said in an interview with FierceWireless here on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress Americas trade show. “I think we'll have some major announcements of contractual arraignments with major players in the ecosystem. We've done a large number of demonstrations. I believe we're probably the furthest along [of all the SAS vendors]. Although I haven't seen the others, I can probably make some guesses.”

Preston explained that Alphabet/Google, an early proponent of sharing in the 3.5 GHz CBRS band, decided early on to act as an SAS provider in order to ensure competition in the space.

“From the very beginning, we felt it was important to have a competitor. So, we were the first company to announce that we were going to build a SAS. When Federated [Wireless] came along, we joined with them to form the WinnForum [Wireless Innovation Forum], to build the standards to make them interoperable. If this is going to be an effective ecosystem, the people who adopt CBRS have to be comfortable that there is going to be a competitive supply chain, in the SAS just as much as in the hardware. So, we've always felt it was important to compete. We'll perform better if we compete.”

In March, the WinnForum pointed to seven of its member organizations for filing SAS Administrator applications with the FCC, including Google, Federated, Amdocs, Comsearch, CTIA, Keybridge and Sony. Comsearch, CTIA, Federated, Google and Keybridge also filed as candidate Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) Operators.

For its part, Federated Wireless has been vocal about its plans and goals for the SAS space and 3.5 GHz opportunity in general; just this week Federated announced the availability of its Spectrum Controller and the closing of a whopping $42 million Series B round of funding, including strategic investments from Charter Communications, American Tower, Arris International and GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

The 3.5 GHz space has received a noteworthy amount of interest in the past few months, including from all the nation's top wireless carriers and cable operators.