NTIA’s ITS wraps final CBRS test reports

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) released final test reports on Thursday to commercial entities that participated in spectrum sharing tests in the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band.

According to the agency, the completed tests will drive progress toward initial commercial deployments in the band—something the industry has been waiting on for a long time. Eight months ago, CBRS proponents quietly worried that the government was taking too long to test elements of the technology.

At the time, NTIA insisted it was going as fast as it could—and based on comments from participating entities, the testing indeed was rigorous. The CBRS band in the U.S. is home to a new kind of sharing regime that hasn’t been tried before—but one that some stakeholders are hopeful will be applied to other eligible bands.

In a statement, the CBRS Alliance reiterated its appreciation to ITS and NTIA for completing the Spectrum Access System (SAS) lab testing on April 30, as Derek Khlopin, senior policy adviser at NTIA, announced at the time. “This was the successful culmination of four phases of testing over a period of many months,” the alliance said.

“We are also very pleased that our SAS administrator members informed us late yesterday that they had received their final test reports from ITS,” the CBRS Alliance said, adding that it expects those reports will be filed with the FCC for review in the next few days.

“The filing of the test reports will complete all of the industry requirements to proceed to commercial service,” which also included the certification of the Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) systems, the authorization of infrastructure and client equipment, the authorization of Certified Professional Installer (CPI) training administrators, and the naming of Certificate Authority (CA) providers.

The CBRS Alliance leadership recently met with the FCC, NTIA and Department of Defense (DoD), and “we have no doubt that our federal partners are as eager as the Alliance’s members for the launch of commercial service.”

Federated Wireless, one of the SAS entities that have undergone tests along with Google and CommScope, is among those eager for initial commercial deployment (ICD).

“We received our final ITS report yesterday and filed it with the FCC today," Federated Wireless CEO Iyad Tarazi said in a statement provided to FierceWirelessTech. "This initiates a review process that will last approximately four to six weeks, at the end of which ICD will begin. We are extremely pleased that we have arrived at this point, and look forward to scaling CBRS deployments with both our customers, many of whom are fully ready for service introduction, and our extensive partner ecosystem. We would like to thank the ITS and all the government teams who have worked so hard to get us and the rest of the industry to this stage.”

CommScope also said it's excited that its test report confirms it passed all of the SAS certification tests. "We now eagerly await the FCC’s public notice announcing the commencement of the Initial Commercial Deployment phase, and we urge the FCC to issue the PN as soon as possible," the company said in a statement.

RELATED: NTIA concludes CBRS lab tests for five SAS vendors

In a blog post, ITS Director Keith Gremban noted that his agency oversaw the testing, which included using a wide variety of scenarios and situations to test a SAS’s ability to manage CBRS devices while protecting incumbent federal and commercial operations in the 3.5 GHz band. The ESC sensors are intended to work with the SAS admnistrators to enable dynamic sharing and were certified by the FCC in late April 2019.

Khlopin told lawmakers in a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday that NTIA and DOD are studying the feasibility of shared access by commercial systems to the neighboring 3450-3550 MHz band.

Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, said during the same hearing that dynamic spectrum access is a tool that can provide access to other spectrum bands but he wouldn’t look at it as a one-size-fits-all solution. There are some complexities about the CBRS sharing approach that might not be necessary in other bands. “But the model I think is one that we can look at in other bands,” he said.

Article updated July 22 with comment from CommScope.