Big Gaps Exposed by FCC C-Band Sharing Plan


Conflict is rampant concerning what the FCC should do to carve out more C-band spectrum for wireless use. Satellite operators, carriers and broadcasters presented disagreeing viewpoints to the FCC this week, as comments were due on the agency’s proposals for the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. Nearly 80 filings were made in the past 30 days.

The Satellite Industry Association says in its effort to further 5G, the agency “must not sacrifice established, vitally important C-band fixed-satellite service (FSS) operations,” that supply video and audio programming to consumers via radio and television broadcasters, and provide “basic, lifeline connectivity in remote regions that lack terrestrial alternatives, to enabling government services critical to public safety and national security.” SAS notes that satellite operators and their customers have invested “in dozens of C-band space stations and thousands of C-band earth stations.” Moreover, C-band FSS operations can’t be readily duplicated on other bands, says SAS. “Ku- and Ka-band frequencies have a lower resistance to rain fade than does the C-band, and satellites in these higher bands have insufficient available capacity to take over the traffic carried by C-band spacecraft.” It also says fiber has limited reach.  

NAB agrees incumbents must be protected in any plan to allow expanded operations on the band. “That means requiring a documented, enforceable and fully-funded plan for accommodating existing users.” NAB says “under no circumstances” should the Commission allow shared operations in the non-reallocated portion of the band because that could risk interference to current and future use.

NAB, NPR and C-SPAN agree the band is critical for content delivery. C-SPAN says the FCC’s “effort to squeeze spectrum for new users” could prevent the broadcaster from fulfilling its public service mission. “C-band satellites allow us to reach even the most remote and rural parts of the country at a reasonable cost, and fiber does not.”

The C-Band Alliance, comprised of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat, has proposed to make up to 200 MHz of mid-band spectrum, including a 20 MHz guard band, available for terrestrial 5G, while ensuring that satellite operators can protect the services that enable their customers’ businesses. Instead of an FCC auction, the Alliance would negotiate secondary market agreements directly with terrestrial mobile operators to clear and repack incumbent C-band downlink operations.

SAS and T-Mobile don’t agree this is the right approach. SAS says co-frequency sharing between FSS and terrestrial 5G operations is “infeasible” because “significant required separation distances would preclude ‘meaningful’ wireless deployment.” T-Mobile notes a market-based auction would generate more broadband spectrum. Verizon agrees, and urges “swift action” by the FCC.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

November 2, 2018

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