GE rallies industries in compromise negotiations over CBRS band

Offering a glimpse into how the industry is doing to reach a compromise in the 3.5 GHz band, General Electric (GE), Union Pacific and other members of the Industrial IoT (IIoT) Coalition said they’re willing to accept substantially reduced census-tract licensing overall as long as there’s a minimum of three census-tract Priority Area Licenses (PALs) available in all areas.

Citing the urgent need for compromise in the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) proceeding, the IIot Coalition is urging the FCC to maintain a CBRS licensing approach that enables industrial and critical-infrastructure entities and other nontraditional users to access meaningful amounts of 3.5 GHz spectrum throughout the U.S., including in urban, suburban, rural and remote locations.

“Most industry participants in compromise negotiations have been open to considering a minimum, reasonable level of census-tract licensing in the CBRS band, and, as discussions move forward, the IIoT Coalition urges all parties to work cooperatively toward a compromise solution that both provides benefits to and imposes costs on all parties,” the group told the FCC in an ex parte letter (PDF).

Noting that the CBRS band was originally labeled the “Innovation Band,” the coalition indicated that not all parties involved in deliberations have been willing to compromise.

“Unfortunately, some stakeholders have insisted that CBRS spectrum in urban areas be licensed exclusively on a large-scale basis, whether by PEA, county or some other urban-area construct,” the letter said. “Moreover, some have argued that all PALs—urban and rural alike—should be licensed on a large-area basis.”

RELATED: Verizon: We’ll have CBRS 3.5 GHz devices by end of 2018

“Though it is deeply frustrating to be engaged in Commission-encouraged compromise discussions when some parties are unwilling to give any ground on the key policy issue in the proceeding, the IIoT Coalition remains hopeful that, going forward in this process, all parties will recognize that a genuine compromise solution allows all parties to obtain some value and requires that all parties bear some costs,” the group wrote.

GE has been particularly active over the past several months participating in various compromise negotiations with numerous parties, including wireless carriers, cable operators, rural broadband providers and technology companies, because CBRS is so important to the IIoT. Self-provisioned private wireless networks at 3.5 GHz will allow industrial and critical-infrastructure entities to minimize costs, control service quality and optimize network performance, among other things.

The IIoT also outlined how the commission could adopt a Managed Access Facility (MAF) policy that GE has proposed in recent compromise discussions. The MAF proposal incorporates features of the Contained Access Facility (CAF) concept that the commission previously considered before adopting its seven census-tract PAL licensing scheme in 2015.

GE’s proposed MAF is more narrowly focused than the CAF and would specifically enable critical- and core-mission infrastructure users to receive PAL-level interference protection in a limited portion of General Authorized Access (GAA) spectrum for private LTE network operations only within the narrow physical confines or boundaries of their indoor and outdoor property.

Under this kind of proposal, eligible MAF users would include businesses and organizations with critical- and/or core-mission infrastructure operations that require self-provisioned and self-operated private wireless networks—like hospitals, power utilities and public safety. The level of interference protection granted to MAF users would be the same as that granted to a PAL user today under the commission’s rules, according to the IIoT.

The FCC has been reviewing the rules for the CBRS band after objections were raised by CTIA and T-Mobile last year. They lobbied for larger licensed areas and longer license terms, with the biggest subject of debate mostly centering around the geographic license size.

The IIoT Coalition includes GE, pdvWireless, the Port of Los Angeles, the American Petroleum Institute, Edison Electric Institute, Enterprise Wireless Association, Southern Linc, the Utilities Technology Council and Union Pacific.