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Pentagon Gives Up Spectrum For 5G, Dish Buys Ting Mobile, Low Earth Orbit Satellite Developments

Jericho Casper

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Photo of Elon Musk in 2017 by Steve Jurvetson used with permission

The White House announced a massive transfer of electromagnetic spectrum traditionally used for military operations to become available for commercial 5G use, reported Breaking Defense on Monday.

The move is aimed at dramatically expanding 5G access for all Americans.

The Federal Communications Commission identified 100 megahertz of spectrum, running from 3450 to 3550 MegaHertz (MHz), currently utilized by the Department of Defense, that they aim to auction off in December 2021.

The 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum is prized by 5G developers. Mid-band spectrum is prime because it allows for longer-range transmissions than the millimeter-wave spectrum that makes up most of what has so far been available in the U.S.

“Together with the spectrum being made available for 5G in the C-band as well as the 3.5 GHz band, we are on track to have a 530-megahertz swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G, from 3.45 to 3.98 GHz,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.

The FCC intends to moving quickly to adopt service rules, then auction off the mid-band spectrum, aiming to put it to use by 2022.

Dish buys Ting Mobile to expand its wireless business

On Monday, Dish Network announced a deal to acquire the customer base of mobile network operator, Ting Mobile, Engadget reported.

As part of the agreement, Ting Mobile will provide infrastructure services to Dish, facilitating billing and activations.

“Our agreement with [Ting’s parent company] Tucows will accelerate our digital and operational capabilities in wireless,” said Dish COO John Swieringa.

Dish has spent years trying to enter the wireless market.

The deal follows Dish’s July acquisition of Boost Mobile. The telecom paid $1.4 billion to buy the company from T-Mobile and Sprint, which also gave Dish access to T-Mobile’s network for seven years.

The company is quickly setting itself up to compete in the wireless market, although it’s too early to tell whether or not Dish will manage to become a legitimate fourth player.

Low earth orbit satellite developments raise doubts

Many hope that low earth orbit satellite (LEOs) internet service will provide an alternative to broadband, but recent developments have raised questions about the resiliency of the industry.

OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 restructuring when it was clear the company could not raise enough cash to continue the research and development of the satellite product, wrote Doug Dawson in a POTs and PANs blog post.

In July, a bankruptcy court in New York approved a $1 billion offer to take over the company, filed jointly by the British Government and Bharti Airtel.

Elon Musk’s satellite venture StarLink was recently in the news when the company said it was going to raise ‘up to $1 billion’ to continue the development of the business.

The company has raised over $3.5 billion to date, but a recent Bloomberg article estimates that the company will need to raise an additional $50 billion between now and 2033.

Keeping the constellation in place will be an ongoing challenge since the satellites have an estimated life of 5 to 6 years. Starlink will forever have to be launching new satellites to replace downed ones, Dawson wrote.

To date, StarLink has over 540 satellites in orbit, but network plans call for over 4,000.

The last LEO player is Jeff Bezos’ venture, which is using the preliminary name of Project Kuiper.

The FCC recently approved the licensing for Project Kuiper to move forward. Immediately following the FCC approval, Jeff Bezos announced that he will be investing $10 billion in the business.

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