Nokia seeks authority to conduct 3.5 GHz small cell tests at Comcast building

Nokia’s not naming names, but it did need to provide an address in its 3.5 GHz application to the FCC, and it happens to belong to the Comcast Center.

Nokia said it wants to demonstrate wireless communication equipment to one of its customers located at 1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd. in Philadelphia, an address that coincides with Comcast’s corporate office. It’s asking for the Special Temporary Authority (STA) period to be from September 15, 2017, to March 15, 2018, to allow time for setup, customer administrations/testing and breakdown of the equipment.

Specifically, Nokia wants to test a Flex small cell and six mobile units. The company says a grant of the experimental STA application will allow it to demonstrate its small cell products to its customers, which allow the company to enhance its efforts to design and develop equipment to meet the needs of those customers.

It’s long been expected that cable companies would deploy small cell equipment in the 3.5 GHz band, which is currently the subject of debate as wireless carriers would like to see changes made to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) rules that were formally voted on and adopted by the FCC last year. Comcast is a member of the CBRS Alliance.

Mobile operators say longer licensing terms, larger geographic areas and harmonization with 5G spectrum worldwide would make the band more appealing for investments. But the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) says many of its members have invested significant funds to deploy service in the 3650-3700 MHz band with the expectation that a software upgrade will enable the use of the same equipment throughout the 3550-3700 MHz band, and they’re opposed to the proposed changes.

In the FCC’s docket on the matter, Nokia filed comments (PDF) supporting CTIA and T-Mobile’s proposals to change the Priority Access License (PAL) terms to 10 years and instituting expectations for renewals. Nokia says the current 3-year terms, without renewal expectation, create uncertainty that threatens the business case for robust investment in the band. It also agrees that geographic license sizes should be increased to support broader deployments while recognizing the importance of facilitating micro-deployments through secondary market transactions and other means.

Nokia also said it supports the relaxed emission limits that Qualcomm proposed to permit wider channels in the band, so long as the rule change doesn’t result in slowing down commission authorization to start service in the 3.5 GHz band. Nokia said that with respect to all the proposals, the need to continue the momentum in the band is of utmost importance, and it's urging the FCC to implement any proposed rule changes in a way that won’t cause delay.

Charter Communications filed comments (PDF) saying it is actively exploring the use of the 3.5 GHz Band—both PALs and General Authorized Access (GAA)—to deliver fixed and mobile wireless service to its subscribers. It recently received two experimental licenses in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida, to begin testing in the band. The company has said it also anticipates the tests will help define how its network can be used to provide multi-gigabit wireless broadband services to businesses and homes located in harder to serve, more rural parts of the country.