CBRS Auction may be bonanca for towerco’s but will be very beneficial to CRE

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently has its attention on the 28 GHz auction, but it’s the eventual 3.5 GHz spectrum auction and licensing in the Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) band that could be a bigger deal for towercos, writes Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief Leslie Stimson.

As Bob Paige, Vertical Bridge senior vice president of Mergers & Acquisitions, told Inside Towers, any new spectrum is a good for towercos. However, Paige went on to say the 28 GHZ millimeter wave spectrum has, “Relatively short propagation characteristics” of approximately one and half miles, which makes it better suited for use in urban areas. It will appeal to carriers because antennas would be placed on rooftops and the side of buildings.

While the 3.5 GHz spectrum auction is good news for towercos and carriers, it also bodes well for commercial real estate owners and companies. One reason the CBRS rollout has been so anticipated is it will be a less expensive way for building owners to provide wireless services in their venues. CBRS provides a “best of both worlds” scenario for building owners and commercial real estate companies: they can create their own private LTE network, giving tenants LTE quality coverage, but won’t have to pay traditional carriers for the ability to do so.

Access to CBRS will allow commercial property managers to deploy their own private LTE networks with a combination of unlicensed, shared and licensed spectrum. With CBRS, a building owner can give their tenants or customers, depending on the venue, LTE coverage for their devices without paying traditional carriers to do so.

In other words, obtaining some of the 3.5 GHz band in the spectrum auction will allow more devices come online, securely, with better connectivity, but at a lower cost point. Not only can commercial real estate companies use this as a selling point to attract tenants, but the 3.5GHz band could allow them to get more out of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as security cameras, because they’ll run on an LTE-quality network.

Meanwhile, the future 3.5 GHz spectrum auction has gained more of Gaines’ enthusiasm due to the potential 5G use. He said the licenses’ area size compromise the Competitive Carriers Association and CTIA offered the FCC was “huge” from an industry perspective. Paige predicted the FCC would adopt it.

“We hope they can auction it off and start deploying 3.5 GHz by the middle of next year,” he said.

According to Paige, the auction for 5G use will be a big deal because he believes companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon will want to get involved. “I’d be surprised if Dish didn’t play, too,” he said.

A more expansive field would work in Vertical Bridge’s favor because there would be more opportunity for the company to increase its tenancy, according to Paige.

“(New entrants into the market are) good for us,” he said. “Our job is to make sure when new guys come in they have a place to put their antennas.”

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