As CBRS Auction Shapes Broadband Landscape Should Rural Operators Make a Bid?

By Jeff Johnston

June 2020

Key Points

  • The upcoming Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) auction will enable new market entrants and smaller and rural operators to build carrier-grade networks at very attractive costs. This could lead to a more fragmented industry with hundreds of new networks.
  • The CBRS band includes licensed and unlicensed spectrum and the decision to acquire spectrum is a complicated one for rural operators.
  • The auction is expected to be very competitive in urban and suburban markets, but county-level licenses may offer cost-effective opportunities for smaller operators to acquire spectrum in rural markets.
  • Using either licensed or unlicensed portions of the CBRS band includes paying fees to and relying on a Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrator. Operators should consider long-term implications when negotiating these agreements.
  • Given that market entry barriers are expected to come down, incumbent broadband operators could see increased competition from new business models.

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