Battle Lines Drawn Over C-Band


By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

UPDATE More broadcasters have joined NPR in opposing the FCC’s plan to explore opening up C-band for broadband as the wireless and satellite industries are pushing to use more of the spectrum between 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, meanwhile, intends to place an item about the issue on the agenda for the Commission’s July meeting, he told attendees at the recent WIA Connect(X). Comments on the issue due to the FCC (to docket 18-122) by May 31, and examined by Inside Towers show how battle lines are shaping up.

Because broadcasters are not required to register their satellite downlink earth stations with the agency, they believe the Commission doesn’t realize how much of the band is being used for this purpose. NAB, the SBE and other organizations have encouraged broadcasters to register their C-band receive-only earth stations by the FCC’s July 18 deadline. No protection will be afforded to those that do not register by July 18, according to the Commission. The hope is once the agency has a better handle on downlink frequency use, it will look elsewhere for additional spectrum to auction off for mobile wireless use, according to a broadcast engineering source.

Intelsat, Intel and SES Americom proposed a way they say the C-band and 5G can coexist, and the Broadband Access Coalition says tests demonstrate the 3.7-4.2 GHz band can be shared with satellite and other incumbent users for commercial, licensed point-to-multipoint fixed wireless broadband services. The group of service providers, equipment vendors and frequency coordinators see the frequencies being licensed for an affordable way to provide “high-throughput, last-mile fixed broadband.”

NAB begs to differ, saying: “Virtually every U.S. television and radio household relies on C-band satellite operations for content distribution in some manner.  The availability of reasonable, practical alternative means of content delivery, such as fiber, are significantly overstated. In many cases, substitute modes of delivery are unavailable or less reliable.”

Before the Commission makes a decision, NAB advises the agency to “insist on rigorous” technical analysis of proposals and “not assume that technical solutions will appear that will allow incompatible services to share spectrum.”  iHeartMedia says its 850+ stations rely heavily on receive-only earth stations; The broadcaster says FCC records “vastly undercount this substantial and ongoing use of the band.” It’s Premiere distribution network, partners with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to transmit the Emergency Alert System nationwide message to Premiere radio affiliates as a redundant delivery method.

Read more of what the wireless and satellite industry had to say in our next issue.

Published June 4, 2018

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