Seven companies will simultaneously control multiple users across three priority levels in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service.

The FCC hopes to launch new spectrum management techniques with the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), in which large numbers of users will share the spectrum with each other and with incumbents through a three-tiered access model. Each unit (except the incumbents) will need permission to transmit, provided by an automated frequency assignment and control database mechanism called a Spectrum Access System (SAS). Read about it here, with a follow-up here.

A key question has been: who will run the SAS? Now, we know. The FCC has conditionally approved seven SAS Administrators: Amdocs, Inc., Comsearch, CTIA—The Wireless Association, Federated Wireless, Google, Inc., Key Bridge, and Sony Electronics, Inc. They will compete for business among CBRS users while working from and updating a common database.

The order linked above provides a list of twelve performance benchmarks the approved entities will have to meet. That done, their systems will undergo compliance testing, which may include public testing and field trials, and then be subject to a trial period before the administrators receive final certification.

An SAS will have to authorize very large numbers of users while ensuring they do not interfere with each other or with higher-priority users. This will entail keeping close track of each individual user’s location, elevation, frequency, priority status, and possibly direction and speed of motion, type of equipment, and other factors, all processed through a mathematical model of how radio waves propagate. As the technology has not yet been publicly demonstrated, its ultimate feasibility is still an open question. Yet the FCC likes the idea so much it has been proposing SAS for use in other services in other bands. That will put these first administrators under a lot of pressure to succeed.