January 15, 2021 – The United States has rapidly increased its cell tower construction over the past four years, according to Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr.
During a virtual event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, Commissioner Carr said that in the four years before Ajit Pai became chairman at the agency, the U.S. built approximately 4,000 new towers. While in 2016, merely 708 towers were built. In 2019, the latest year for which data exists, 46,000 new towers were built.
Overcoming regulatory processes which slowed progress at the FCC, allowed the private sector to build more towers and play a significant role in the increase of construction.
Now, Carr says the FCC’s next priority is understanding which spectrum bands are best suited for urban and densely populated areas and which are most effective in rural populations, in order to have proper and efficient propagation.
Carr said allowing the private industry to keep innovating in this field will help bring solutions to these spectrum proliferation issues.
According to Carr, since 2017, thousands of megahertz of unlicensed spectrum have been freed up. He further reported that rolling back unnecessary regulations has led to an $80 billion spectrum auction, currently in the works.
According to Carr, the chair needs to extend political capital to improve spectrum management. Some interagency disagreements and debates cause barriers to deployment and innovation, but Carr notes that this can be a good sign, meaning that intense debate ensures all spectrum is utilized to its full potential.
Years of progress in freeing up spectrum were made due to the pandemic, he said. Historically, spectrum has been a bipartisan issue. Carr said that the challenge now is not to allow interagency disputes to take over and maintain healthy relationships with Capitol Hill, as more stakeholders are involved.
Carr said he believes that the FCC is a world leader in the management and use of radio spectrum, and that other countries have not embraced spectrum auctions to their advantage because they aim to maintain more long-term control over the spectrum and retain a high return on investment for the treasury.
A panel following Commissioner Carr’s remarks discussed spectrum sharing
“With so much demand for it coming from the government, private, and commercial consumers, these networks must be deployed efficiently,” said Joel Thayer, associate at Phillips Lytle. According to Thayer, more than 90 percent of spectrum below 8 GigaHertz is shared spectrum.
Any spectrum-sharing solution is very complicated and may require dozens of operating parameters for any system, said Peter Rysavy, president of Rysavy Research.
Rysavy clarified a common misconception between dynamic spectrum access and dynamic spectrum sharing: Dynamic spectrum access is a general engineering term for systems that dynamically sense whether other entities are using the spectrum. In contrast, dynamic spectrum sharing is a specific capability in 5G that enables 5G radios to share the same radio channel as a 4G LTE signal.
The dynamic spectrum sharing allows operators to roll out 5G faster since they don’t need to use a cleared spectrum and use existing 4G spectrum bands while introducing a 5G signal. In the context of 5G, DSS is a specific well-specified capability for that function.
Patricia Paoletta, a partner at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, said that the incoming Biden Administration will be for more dynamic sharing and licensing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SpaceX, Engineers Clash over Whether 12 GigaHertz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Operators
Competing submissions to the FCC show the friction over valuable mid-band spectrum.
August 10, 2021 – Research commissioned by RS Access showing the mid-band 12 GHz spectrum, a band used by satellite service providers, can be shared with 5G operations has elicited a scathing rebuke by SpaceX — and the engineering firm behind the study is responding in kind.
The FCC is currently studying the possible sharing of the band between satellite providers and mobile wireless carriers for 5G. Broadband Breakfast held a panel discussion in July, which included arguments for and against the spectrum’s flexible use. RS Access’ V. Noah Campbell mentioned the technical study in question during the session, by RKF Engineering Solutions, LLC.
In a filing to the Federal Communications Commission last week, however, SpaceX alleges RKF’s technical study is a “fatally flawed” analysis that washes over the interference consequences that will allegedly happen if the spectrum is shared with 5G operations.
To address interference concerns, the engineering study drew three main conclusions: low-earth orbit satellite user terminals, which SpaceX’s Starlink fleet uses, can reject 5G signals; technology used by mobile wireless networks will direct energy toward handsets, not satellite terminals; and 5G networks will be used largely in higher population areas, whereas Starlink will focus on low-density, largely rural, areas. It also said that without coordination, interference possibilities will affect less than one percent of next-generation satellite operator terminals.
But SpaceX said these conclusions assume that the 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas and limit the next-generation satellite service providers from operating in those areas. The company said while Starlink is “designed to optimize for rural areas initially, it will provide service in urban areas.” It also claims that there will be interference suffered by the satellite terminals on the ground to cause disruptions in service, and ultimately, thousands of customers could be impacted.
SpaceX notes that the $900 million it won in December from the FCC’s $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund – which is currently being reassessed due to complaints of possible overbuilding – backs the fact that urban coverage is part of its agenda.
The company said it has over half a million back orders in its first six months of beta testing its Starlink service with only a third of its LEO fleet deployed (it has over 1,400 satellites launched). It also said it has applied to increase the number of licensed user terminals to 5 million.
RKF engineering firm responds
But RKF said in a filing to the FCC on August 9 that SpaceX misread the study to “find harmful interference where none may exist.” It said the study finds that a 5G network with zero coordination among users of the spectrum would impact fewer than one percent of next-generation satellite terminals. With coordination, such possible interference incidences would be reduced even further, it adds.
RKF, founded in 2001 and known by the last name initials of its founders Phil Rubin, Ted Kaplan, and Jeff Freedman, said this is the only engineering study of its kind in the FCC docket and no company has refuted it.
Other complaints in the Tuesday filing include RKF’s claim that its study did not say that the 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas, noting that the study surveyed less populated areas and found that demand is greatest in more densely populated areas. It also said its study does not preclude SpaceX from operating in any part of the country. It added that SpaceX operations in urban areas with 5G networks is “still readily achievable.”
“SpaceX’s inexplicable response to our rigorous, data-driven engineering study on coexistence in the 12 GHz band is so egregiously inaccurate that we as a firm felt it needed a direct response,” David Marshack, chief operating officer of RKF, said in a statement to Broadband Breakfast.
“Though our firm has often been called on to perform analyses in Commission proceedings, rarely has our firm engaged directly in the FCC docket on its own behalf. But in multiple Commission filings, SpaceX has impugned RKF’s integrity with baseless allegations and brazen misrepresentations that have made engaging on the record necessary.
“The engineering analysis clearly shows that coexistence between satellite and terrestrial 5G in the 12 GHz band is highly feasible,” the statement added. “Any claim to the contrary is a misunderstanding of our findings which show that a 5G network with zero coordination would impact fewer than one percent of NGSO terminals.”
Dish Network — the beneficiary of mobile wireless assets from the T-Mobile-Sprint merger and which is using said assets to develop its 5G network – said in a January filing that it hopes the commission would find a way to open the band for 5G use.
Since the other satellite-using C-band spectrum has already concluded its auction, the supply of critical mid-band spectrum for 5G is diminishing. Last month, RS Access filed a study by Roberson and Associates with the FCC claiming that the 12 GHz spectrum is “highly favorable for 5G, resembles lower-mid band frequencies, and can rapidly accelerate 5G deployment nationwide.”
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