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Google, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm and others form 3.5 GHz alliance

CB radio

Some of the world’s biggest technology companies have decided to join forces in order to work out how best to exploit the 150 MHz of unlicensed spectrum that has been made available for commercial use.

The spectrum is in the 3.5 GHz band (specifically 3550-3700 MHz) and is being referred to as the Citizens Radio Broadband Service, so the joint effort is called the CBRS Alliance. The founding members consist of: Google, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm, Ruckus Wireless and Federated Wireless. This partnership was first publicly discussed back at MWC this year but it seems to have taken them half a year to get their act together.

The availability of the 3.5 GHz band has been spoken about for a while, but the rules governing the coexistence of incumbent users with new entrants were only formalised earlier this year. The presence of a significant chunk of unlicensed spectrum so close to licensed bands has intrigued many companies, recently causing Google to reassess is fibre plans.

“There is ever-growing demand for LTE-based solutions in 3.5 GHz bands and expansion of the wireless footprint,” said Neville Meijers, VP of small cells for Qualcomm and chairman of the board for the CBRS Alliance. “Working together, the CBRS Alliance aims to enable the entire industry to address demand by expanding the capacity of new technologies.”

“Working together, the Alliance will ultimately build LTE-based solutions for the CBRS band – creating one of the many paths that will make it possible to help meet challenges associated with the coming data capacity crunch, which experts predict will reach over 30 exabytes per month by 2020,” blogged Intel’s Shawn Covell who moved there from Qualcomm.

“Federated Wireless has been instrumental in leading the creation of the shared spectrum ecosystem that will enable carriers and enterprises to seamlessly and cost effectively alleviate the challenges of sharing and managing spectrum while improving the performance and capacity of wireless networks for their customers,” said Iyad Tarazi, CEO of Federated Wireless. “The CBRS Alliance can be a critical driver to the success of the shared spectrum deployment in the CBRS band, which we believe has great potential to drive innovation, support new business models and spur economic growth.”

This move brings together two prevailing trends in the wireless industry right now: the exploitation of unlicensed spectrum and the formation of partnerships. It speaks volumes about the potential of this resource that so many industry heavyweights are staking a claim but you do have to wonder why the likes of AT&T and Verizon aren’t part of the gang.

  • Nokia Corporation


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