FCC Issues Ruling on Small Cells
December 24, 2012
By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor
The Federal Communications Commission last week made some positive movement regarding small cells, which could mean more capacity for carriers. With a spectrum crunch on the forefront of everybody’s thoughts in the telecommunications industry, this first step toward freeing up spectrum for communications among the general public is drawing attention from nearly every aspect of society with an interest in communication.
According to this Gigaom report, the notice of proposal ruling from the FCC (News - Alert) creates a “Citizens Broadband Service” in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band and will enable more small cells and spectrum sharing. The ruling also makes plausible the opening of around 100 MHz of spectrum for small cells operating in the 3550 to 3650 range. Most consumers are familiar with the 2.4 GHz band that most Wi-Fi signals operate from.
The 3.5 GHz band is most closely associated with the Department of Defense, especially in radar technology. Through the ruling by the FCC, however, that spectrum stays open for government, yet will now be available to commercial and public users.
Small Cells are already popping up on light poles, the sides of buildings and in office areas where more bandwidth is needed to keep up with the traffic. The FCC ruling means even more small cells could be deployed to develop more layers of capacity for 3G and 4G networks to allow carriers to keep pace with a growing user base.
A few things need to happen before carriers start mounting small cells throughout the cities of the U.S., however. There is still a mandatory response time where the conversation could evolve through the winter and into the spring. The current proposal suggests that the FCC will put aside 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band that is used not only by the government, but by satellite providers as well.
Those two entities would likely still get first dibs on available bandwidth. Public safety agencies and hospitals would get priority on the second tier, which would also be extended to utilities and various government facilities. And finally, the third tier includes just anyone else who wants to operate on the 3.5 GHz band. Where there are spectral gaps, anyone would be able to set up their small cells to create networks of their own.
It’s likely that the carriers will weigh-in on the third tier portion of the notice of proposal as they are historically not on board with sharing spectrum. Regardless of the outcome, companies like Taqua, which makes industry-leading devices for small cell cores, are perfectly suited for mobile operators. While the FCC ruling has widened the interest in small cells, Taqua (News - Alert) is ahead of the curve with a line of small cell devices ready for deployment. Taqua’s small cell core allows mobile operators a new level of efficiency as they strive to keep up with user expectations.