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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Attempts to Broker Agreement Between Satellite and Broadband for the C-Band



Photo of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and ITIF Director Doug Brake by Adrienne Patton

WASHINGTON, February 6, 2020 – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced a reimbursement plan for incumbents offering satellite service in the C-Band in order to facilitate a public auction that is scheduled to begin December 8, 2020, Pai said Thursday.

Speaking at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Pai discussed preliminary details of the FCC’s plan to free up C-Band spectrum in light what he called a rapid race for 5G deployment.

Pai said 280 megahertz airwaves within the C-Band, from 3.7 GigaHertz (GHz) to 4.2 GHz, will be repurposed for 5G deployment.

The 600 megahertz within the C-Band is currently primarily used by satellite companies, and Pai said the C-Band was “an enormous opportunity” because satellite companies do not need the entire spectrum.

He also said he wants the repurposing to be “consumer friendly” and the FCC has explored all options in this complicated debate.

He laid out four principles for repurposing the C-Band.

  • First, “make a significant amount spectrum in the C-Band available for 5G.”
  • Second, “quickly” move efforts to free the C-Band spectrum.
  • Third, “generate revenue for the federal government.”
  • Fourth, “ensure that the services that are currently delivered using the C-Band continue to be delivered to the American people.”

The FCC decided public auctions would be the best approach, as “bidders would be less likely to participate in an untested private auction,” said Pai. The FCC also has more legal control over public auctions.

Pai also announced that successful bidders will reimburse the satellite companies for relocation. Pai said this is meant to incentivize incumbent satellite companies to move quickly and meet deadlines.

“I am proposing to give satellite operators the opportunity to receive accelerated relocation payments of $9.7 billion if they meet [the] accelerated clearing milestones,” explained Pai.

“At the FCC, we are determined to lead the world in pushing out mid-band spectrum for 5G, just as we have led with high and low-band spectrum,” said Pai.

In an effort to secure American leadership in the race to 5G, Pai said, “we must and we will continue to take bold and aggressive action to make more mid-band spectrum available for the commercial marketplace.”

Reactions to the plan from legislators, industry and think tanks

Although Pai said he was expecting disapproval from both sides of the aisle, generally positive comments were received.

Pai said he believed this is a happy medium between incumbents’ asking price and the urgency for 5G.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, released a statement: “[Pai’s] announcement today made clear that he understands the importance of this race to our country’s national security and economic future.”

However, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., expressed concern and, together with subcommittee chairman Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., suggested legislation on the issue.

“The questionable legal basis for the satellite incentives will likely result in litigation, which will delay the deployment of 5G,” they said.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Associations said it was heartened by the moves because of the current way in which the C-Band is “grossly underutilized, especially in our spectrum-constrained world.”

Referred to spectrum sharing technology, WISPA Vice President Louis Peraertz said, “This sharing has been proven. Satellite earth stations have coexisted with point-to-point fixed wireless services for decades. It is also a potent way to open the remainder of the band to fixed wireless providers and other competitive innovators.”

“The plan Pai announced today is a thoughtful effort to balance the various interests in a way that advances overall consumer welfare and the national interest,” said Randy May, president of the free-market Free State Foundation. “Because speed in repurposing the C-Band spectrum is all-important, providing sufficient compensation to the incumbent satellite operators to incentive their active cooperation and avoid litigation that might derail implementation is a key objective.”

Pai is expected to release the official plan for C-Band spectrum on Friday.

Adrienne Patton was a Reporter for Broadband Breakfast. She studied English rhetoric and writing at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She grew up in a household of journalists in South Florida. Her father, the late Robes Patton, was a sports writer for the Sun-Sentinel who covered the Miami Heat, and is for whom the press lounge in the American Airlines Arena is named.


More Experts Weigh In On Possibility 12 GHz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Services

More experts weight in on the debate about whether the 12 GHz band can coexist with 5G operations.



Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2021 – Experts at the New America Open Technology Institute last week suggested that the 12 Gigahertz band can be shared with 5G wireless services and argued that the big-name proponent that says it can’t has allegedly not produced evidence saying otherwise.

The Federal Communications Commission, studying the sharing possibility, has fielded comments from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has argued that the 12 GHz band used by satellite services, cannot be shared with 5G wireless providers because of interference problems. On the other hand, providers like RS Access have argued that it can, using a technical study from RKF Engineering to demonstrate as such.

At a New America Open Technology Institute event on November 2, Kathleen Burke, policy counsel at internet advocacy group Public Knowledge, alleged SpaceX hasn’t submitted any studies showing it’s not possible to share spectrum.

Burke said SpaceX has no engineering analysis supporting its claim that the band could not be shared. “Incumbents are not open to sharing spectrum” she said, alleging a strong desire for SpaceX to win exclusive use licenses for its satellite venture.

“The evidence demonstrates it is possible to share this band,” she added.

Nicol Turner-Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, said that it’s worth looking at innovations in satellite. “When we come up with a solution for the digital divide, shared spectrum use [of the 12GHz band] has always been on the palate,” she said.

“The question is, can we get along when there’s so many people that are disconnected,” she added. “This may not be picking winners and losers and more about getting everyone on board…no one should hog the spectrum if it’s at the expense of communities that need it most.”

Mid-band crucial for 5G

Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute, said that the 500 megahertz of mid-band spectrum on the 12GHz band offers more speed and potential than any other mid-band spectrum being considered by the FCC. Using the 12Ghz band for 5G and authorizing the band for open shared access could “promote more competition, enhance the benefits of next-generation Wi-Fi, and help address the digital divide,” he said.

The RKF engineering study concluded that Starlink’s SpaceX low-earth orbit satellite terminals can reject 5G signals; technology used by mobile wireless networks will direct energy toward handsets, not satellite terminals; and 5G networks will largely be used in higher population areas while Starlink will target mostly rural areas.

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House Democrats Introduce Bill to Free Up Mid-Band Spectrum for Auction, Flexible Use

The bill would ensure adequate mid-band spectrum is available for commercial use to expand broadband availability.



Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-California.

WASHINGTON, September 30, 2021 – Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, and Doris Matsui, D-California, have introduced a bill that would free up new airwaves for wireless broadband use by the public, which the representatives claim would mean faster speeds and more responsive networks.

The Spectrum Innovation Act, unveiled Wednesday and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on which Doyle is the chairman, will “make available additional frequencies in the 3.1-3.45 GHz band for non-Federal use, shared Federal and non-Federal use, or a combination thereof, and for other purposes.”

The bill comes after Congressman Doyle told Broadband Breakfast last month that spectrum provisions in the Senate-passed infrastructure bill – which is slated to be voted on in the House on Thursday – deviated from the “traditional process” and that he planned to “look at that.”

Among the spectrum rules outlined in the infrastructure bill is the ability of federal officials to seek out spectrum frequencies for federal use, and to shovel money from the Spectrum Relocation Fund toward to the Defense Department for the “purpose of research and development, engineering studies, economic analysis, activities with respect to systems, or other planning activities.”

The affected spectrum in this case would be the 3.1 to 3.45 GigaHertz (GHz) band, a key mid-band series of radio frequencies that includes some federal users, that is the subject of this new bill.

“In addition to up to 200 megahertz of spectrum auctioned for mobile broadband, this bill will help usher in new, innovative wireless uses through opportunistic and other flexible spectrum uses,” Congressman Doyle said.

“For the United States to remain the pacesetter in wireless broadband, we must continue to ensure innovators have a reliable spectrum pipeline,” said congresswoman Matsui in a press release Wednesday.

“We stand at a pivotal moment in the development and deployment of next generation networks; the Spectrum Innovation Act will unleash the economic potential of this valuable mid-band spectrum and give us the tools necessary to meet the communications challenges of tomorrow,” she added.

The bill would require that an investigation be launched into even more frequencies within the bandwidth that could potentially be freed up and sold at auction.

A number of industry associations and public advocacy groups praised the bill.

“The Spectrum Innovation Act of 2021 will greatly benefit consumers by making a very large band of prime spectrum available to help fuel the world’s most robust 5G wireless ecosystem,” said Public Knowledge and the Open Technology Institute at New America in a joint statement.

“We commend Chairman Doyle and Representative Matsui for taking a holistic approach that recognizes the value of making spectrum available both by auction and through shared use by smaller broadband providers, schools, critical infrastructure and literally thousands of individual enterprises on a local basis. This is the policy framework for mid-band spectrum that is most likely to spur 5G competition and innovation, while also ensuring that critical military radar systems can continue to use the band without undue risk of harmful interference.”

The NCTA — Internet and Television Association and the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association also came out to voice support for the bill.

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Dish Requests Temporary Authority to Use 600 MegaHertz Band Licenses for 5G Test in Las Vegas and Denver

Dish said it needs non-contiguous 600 MHz band licenses to test open-RAN 5G network in two markets.



Dish President and CEO Erik Carlson

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2021 – Dish Network is asking the Federal Communications Commission to grant it a temporary license to use 600 MegaHertz (MHz) spectrum band licenses owned by another licensee for 5G tests in Las Vegas and Denver.

Dish said in a Wednesday submission to the FCC that Bluewater Wireless II, the owner of the 600 MHz spectrum band in question, has consented to allow Dish to use the spectrum under a regime called a special temporary authority.

Dish said it requires Bluewater’s spectrum licenses in the two cities to test and validate equipment for its 5G broadband network, using open radio access network technologies. The company said it needs the licenses to test carrier aggregation, where using its own licenses would be insufficient, because the two spectrum blocks cannot be contiguous.

“DISH anticipates needing more low-band spectrum in some markets to meet customer demand in the future,” the company said in its submission. “When and if additional 600 MHz spectrum becomes available, either when the Commission auctions unassigned spectrum or through future partnerships, DISH plans to use carrier aggregation at the market level to combine multiple 600 MHz assets to add capacity and improve data throughput speeds.”

“Grant of this STA will deliver important public interest benefits,” the company added. “In particular, the STA will enable DISH to put to use certain spectrum licensed to Bluewater that is not yet deployed.”

The test will end no later than the end of this year and the spectrum will only be used for testing and not for commercial purposes, Bluewater added in a letter to the FCC consenting to the arrangement.

The Denver-based company said it completed its first fully open RAN-compliant network communication in December 2020.

Dish announced that it was taking sign-ups for its 5G service in June, with the first city to get its so-called Project Gene5is being Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dish secured mobile wireless assets in a deal that allowed T-Mobile to absorb Sprint and entered the market in 2020 with the purchase of Boost Mobile and Ting Mobile. Dish has been widely expected to deliver wireless service that would add competition back in after the acquisition of Sprint.

The company announced this month that it is also purchasing Gen Mobile, a pre-paid and low-cost mobile service company, through its Boost brand.

Earlier this year, Boost bundled its K Health telehealth service in with its mobile service.

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