FCC Opens Up 3.5GHz Spectrum for Full Commercial Use, Apple's Newest iPhones Already Offer Support

The United States Federal Communications Commission today cleared the way for OnGo [PDF], a wireless product spearheaded by the Citizens Broadcast Radio Service Alliance (CBRS) that aims to use the 3.5GHz band for a range of applications, including improving data speeds and connectivity across the United States on both 4G and 5G networks.

The CBRS Alliance announced that the FCC has allowed the Full Commercial Deployment of the OnGo service, which has been in the works since 2013 when the FCC first began pursuing a shared spectrum model for the 3.5GHz band.


Many major companies and government agencies came together as part of the CBRS Alliance to launch OnGo, including AT&T, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, Qualcomm, the FCC, the NTIA, the Department of Defense, and more, with the alliance boasting more than 159 members in total.

The 3.5GHz CBRS band will allow for new 4G and 5G operations, which the National Telecommunications and Information Administration says will create "tremendous value" for the United States by opening up capacity and coverage for 4G networks and facilitating the rollout of 5G.

Prior to the opening up of the 3.5GHz spectrum for commercial uses, it was used by the Department of Defense for shipborne radar systems. Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) networks built along the coast will reserve spectrum for ship radar systems, dynamically reassigning standard users to other parts of the band.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the 3.5GHz band will benefit both consumers and businesses through agreements with CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google, and Sony who are now fully approved to operate commercial services in the band.
The FCC has made it a priority to free up mid-band spectrum for advanced wireless services like 5G. And today, I'm pleased to announce the latest step to achieve that priority: the approval of four systems that will enable the 3.5 GHz band to be put to use for the benefit of American consumers and businesses. As with all of our efforts to execute on the 5G FAST plan, we're pushing to get next-generation wireless services deployed in the 3.5 GHz band as quickly and efficiently as possible.
OnGo is the name that the CBRS Alliance is using for the 3.5GHz spectrum. The CBRS Alliance says that OnGo empowers new business opportunities in workplaces, in public spaces where consumers will be able to use the spectrum, and for machine-to-machine communications or sensors for enabling a smarter infrastructure.

In simpler terms, OnGo facilitates private LTE networks, offers better performance than Wi-Fi, provides spectrum without cost that can be used for a multitude of purposes, allows wireless carriers to add coverage and capacity and improve data, and it boosts IoT connectivity in the longer-range level currently limited to Low-Power Wide Area Networks.

Apple's newest iPhones, including the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max, already support OnGo, or CBRS Band 48, and iPhone users could be seeing OnGo benefits in the near future. Verizon, for example, is a customer of Federated Wireless, one of the companies authorized to use the spectrum. Federated Wireless has already said that it plans to initiate CBRS services for more than 20 of its major customers in both urban and rural markets.

Along with the ‌iPhone‌, other major smartphones also work with CBRS Band 48, including Samsung's Galaxy S10 devices and Google's Pixel 4 smartphones.

Top Rated Comments

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3 weeks ago
Waits anxiously for Verizon to add another $10 to my bill.....
Rating: 21 Votes
3 weeks ago
Very Good FCC. I have no idea of the advantages and disadvantages of this move, but it sounds cool, so am going to support and defend it.
Rating: 7 Votes
3 weeks ago


Waits anxiously for Verizon to add another $10 to my bill.....

It’ll be tagged CBRS aka Completely Bullcrap Revenue Source
Rating: 4 Votes
3 weeks ago


Waits anxiously for Verizon to add another $10 to my bill.....

... and for Att “match the price” increase
Rating: 4 Votes
3 weeks ago
The number one complaint of cell service isn't limited spectrum, but good ole fashioned lack of nearby cellular towers for the spectrum already in use. I don't think there's a single person complaining about connectivity when they've got a cell tower within sight
Rating: 4 Votes
3 weeks ago
Will this affect my T-Mobile coverage at all? I'm really afraid that I might be able to get reception and be bothered by cell calls, messages, calendar reminders, map and routing info, internet service, etc in my established "quiet zones" where I have zero coverage, like inside my house, 96% of my daily commute, any store I enter, my parking garage, my office, and any time I have all my windows rolled up in my car.
Rating: 4 Votes
3 weeks ago


When speaking of spectrum it's important to mention if it's licensed or unlicensed otherwise it's incomplete reporting. In this case, CBRS has a licensed Priority Access Line (PAL) tier and unlicensed General Authorized Access (GAA) tier managed by Spectrum Access System (SAS).

https://www.commscope.com/solutions/wireless-mobility/spectrum-access-system-faqs/


It's really neither. It's a new lightweight licensing scheme based on the Internet and cognitive or "white space" radio ideas.

It's not like standard big-bucks licensed spectrum in that PAL tier licensees have weak guarantees on interference and have significant power limits. There's also license ownership limits.

It's not unlicensed in that GAA tier users can't use any frequency they want and it's not free. They pay an annual fee to a SAS service who takes their GPS coordinates and over the Internet tells the base stations what frequencies and power they can use. In many cases, the installer must be certified.

Basically, the carrier gets mediocre spectrum for a lot less money, and the business gets much better spectrum than unlicensed by spending a little more money.

These restrictions mean that it's for carrier and large business networks, not something that home users can deal with.
Rating: 4 Votes
3 weeks ago
Maybe the FCC has finally realized the huge problem with mmWave.

There's a reason why the rest of the world is deploying 5G on sub-6 as pioneer bands.
Rating: 3 Votes
3 weeks ago


I wonder if this will require a software? 12.4.5 on older devices?

We'll most likely receive a carrier update:



Rating: 2 Votes
3 weeks ago
Hopefully the FCC doesn't open up the 3.7 to 4.0 GHz part of the C-Band. If they do, in the long run, one would expect cable and satellite subscription rates to increase since there will be less bandwidth available to contact providers.
Rating: 1 Votes

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