Wireless, Satellite Say Sharing C-band is Possible

Wireless and satellite providers are pushing the FCC to explore opening up a portion of C-band for mobile broadband use. Broadcasters oppose sharing more 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz spectrum with wireless and satellite providers. Stations and networks use that portion of the C-band for program distribution and say it can’t be shared with other users without incumbents experiencing harmful interference, we reported last week.

Wireless and satellite providers vigorously disagree with broadcasters. CTIA actually agrees spectrum sharing in the same or nearby geographic areas “is not a viable option” between wireless broadband and satellite downlink operations, but say there are other options. In comments filed with the agency, CTIA suggests repurposing the band, including “repacking existing users into a smaller portion of the band,” or moving them entirely out of C-band. CTIA suggests fiber connections could replace many downlinks to earth station receivers and earth stations could move “to remote locations where they can be more feasibly protected from harmful interference.”

The association also says it’s imperative that the U.S. quickly identify more spectrum for 5G, noting that carriers in South Korea plan to start bidding on their frequencies for that use next week.

T-Mobile calls the 3.7-4.2 GHz band ideal for 5G use. It’s near other spectrum being considered for wireless use and provides a balance of capacity and coverage. “Because of its propagation characteristics, global equipment manufacturers have identified the 3.7-4.2 GHz band as a band in which vendors expect to soon launch 5G equipment and technology,” says T-Mobile.

The FCC is congressionally required to submit a report on the issue by September 2019. Wireless groups like T-Mobile want the Commission to move now on that report. The Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition, whose members operate licensed fixed microwave links in the band, does not oppose repurposing the band or opening it to new services, as long as the links are protected or moved. If moved, the coalition says “proponents of the incoming service” should pay those costs.

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.

However, at least one satellite provider, Eutelsat, doesn’t agree, saying commercial wireless systems cannot operate “in all or any portion of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band on a shared basis with incumbent satellite communications service” unless large swaths of spectrum are excluded from sharing, or the band is partitioned to ensure that “the relatively weak satellite links” operating in this spectrum “are adequately protected from harmful interference.” Several U.S. oil companies use Eutelsat’s C-band satellite services to transmit data and operational information between facilities in the United States and oil platforms and ships in the Gulf of Mexico.

Published June 5, 2018

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