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Spectrum

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chair Takes FCC to Task for Communication With Tribes

‘You need to get a little better about talking to and listening to native communities,” the chairman told the FCC.

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Screenshot of Sen. Brian Schatz, D-HI, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

WASHINGTON, September 23, 2022 –Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Brian Schatz on Wednesday urged the Federal Communications Commission to consult more regularly with Tribal leaders on the spectrum-licensing processes.

“Some of [the problems voiced native panelists at the roundtable] could simply be avoided by better, more aggressive, more continuous, more humble consultation, and you’re going to save yourselves a ton of headache,” said Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat. “I’m wondering if you need to get a little better about talking to and listening to native communities at every step in the process.”

“Chairman, I think you put that extremely well,” responded Umair Javed, chief council for the office of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

Tyler Iokepa Gomes, deputy to the chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, told the committee of difficulties faced by native Hawaiians in obtaining spectrum licenses. Since the DHHL is a state entity, not a Tribal government, Gomes said, it was forced to compete against two local, native communities in a waiver process. Gomes said that his agency’s competition with the other waiver applicants caused considerable friction in Hawaii’s native community at large.

Low digital literacy is also a problem for some native communities attempted to secure spectrum licenses. “When it comes to technology, a lot of people seem to be scared of it,” said Keith Modglin, director of information technology for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, a federally-recognized Indian Tribe.

Modglin argued that education initiatives to raise digital literacy and explain the intra- and intercommunity benefits of spectrum would benefit his band greatly.

The land of the Mille Lacs Band is a “checkerboard,” meaning that Tribal lands are interspersed with non-tribal lands, said Melanie Benjamin, the tribe’s chief executive officer. According to Benjamin, navigating government’s failure to account for this status caused substantial delays for her tribe.

In addition to improving communication, Schatz called on the FCC to take affirmative actions to ease regulatory burdens on small tribes. “There are some really under resourced native communities, and it shouldn’t be a labyrinth to figure out what they’re eligible for,” he said. “Try to figure out some one-stop shop, some simple way to access the resources that they are eligible for under current law.”

Javed acknowledged a need for the FCC improve its communication with native communities, but he said the FCC is making strides in other areas. “While spectrum is one piece of that puzzle, I think we are making a lot of progress in some of our programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program, updates to the E-Rate program, some of our mapping efforts as well,” he said.

Spectrum

FCC Seeking Comments on Licensed Spectrum Allocation for Unmanned Aircraft

Amazon began launch of drone deliveries in two U.S. cities late last month.

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Screenshot of Amazon Drone via Amazon

WASHINGTON, January 4, 2023 – More than two years after its urging, the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that it is seeking comment on crafting rules for opening up the lower 5 Gigahertz spectrum band to unmanned aircraft systems, days after Amazon Prime Air began deliveries in two cities using drone technology.

The commission is seeking comments on providing these operators with access to licensed spectrum in the 5030-5091 MHz band for “safety-critical” wireless communications, on whether the commission’s rules on flexible-use spectrum bands are adequate to ensure “co-existence” of ground mobile operations and unmanned aircraft system use, and on a proposal to require such operators to get a license to communicate with air traffic control and other aircraft.

Currently, such unmanned systems operate primarily under unlicensed and low-power wireless communications rules or experimental licenses, according to the FCC. “Given the important current and potential uses for these systems, the Commission will consider ways to improve the reliability of their operations,” the commission said in a release.

“It is past time that we assess the availability of wireless communications resources for the increasingly important remote-piloted aircraft activity we rely on today,” added Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in the release. “The FCC must ensure that our spectrum rules meet the current – and future – spectrum needs of evolving technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems, which can be critical to disaster recovery, first responder rescue efforts, and wildfire management.”

Because it involves flying machines, the rules implicate the Federal Aviation Administration, and because it possibly implicates federal spectrum, it brings in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which governs the federal use of spectrum.

“Accordingly, a whole-of-government approach is needed to ensure that this proceeding addresses the relevant concerns and issues within the responsibility of each stakeholder agency and that our efforts in this area work in complement with those of our federal partners to support and promote the safe and productive operation of UAS,” the FCC said in its notice of proposed rulemaking.

The support for wireless communications with UAS in the 5030-5091 MHz band is not new. In 2020, the FCC released a report – mandated by Congress in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 – that found that “alternative frequencies licensed under flexible-use service rules are a promising option for UAS communications,” and that the commission “begin a rulemaking to develop service and licensing rules enabling UAS use of that band.”

The request for comments come after Amazon, which began deliveries of packages using drones in California and Texas last week, asked the FCC in November to allow near-ground level drones to utilize the 60-64 GHz band to facilitate safe operations of the drone.

Amazon had asked the commission to adopt a new perspective on drones, saying a “drone package delivery operating near ground level operates much more like a last-mile delivery truck than a cargo plane.”

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Spectrum

As Debate Over 12 GigaHertz Persist, Satellite Companies Jockey for Nearby Spectrum

The inquiry considers how the spectrum band could be expanded to include mobile broadband services to decrease interference.

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Photo of Eric Graham, OneWeb executive

WASHINGTON, December 26, 2022 – Satellite service provider OneWeb is in support of the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to open up crucial middle-band spectrum in the 12.7-13.25 GigaHertz (GHz) band for mobile wireless use, given the outstanding fight between satellite and terrestrial service providers over the lower portion of the 12 GHz band.

The FCC has released a notice of inquiry inviting input on how the 12.7-13.25 GHz band could be expanded to include mobile broadband services to decrease interference in the heavily populated 12 GHz band.

The 12.7 GHz band in the United States is primarily allocated to Fixed Service, Fixed Satellite Service, and Mobile Service with limited federal use. The notice of inquiry acknowledges that the need for mobile broadband access for Americans continues to grow “unabated,” necessitating the expansion into more frequency ranges.

The inquiry states that the 12.7 band is “ideal” for the commission to consider as it is already allocated for mobile services on a primary basis domestically, and it appears to be lightly used.

OneWeb, formerly known as WorldVu, is in support of expanding the 12.7 band as it says it reduces congestion on the adjacent 12 GHz band, which has historically hosted fixed satellite systems.

“[It] offers terrestrial operators the requested bandwidth of mid-band spectrum with the same beneficial propagation characteristics present in the 12 GHz band, but with substantially less disruption to incumbent satellite operations and associated harm to American consumers,” read its comment.

The inquiry recognizes that there are alternative, and likely superior, solutions for providing additional mid- band spectrum than by creating new allocations in the heavily used 12 GHz band, continued OneWeb in its comment.

For years, OneWeb claimed, certain 12 GHz terrestrial licensees have demonstrated no regard for “unacceptable” interference they could cause to incumbent satellite operations making intensive use of the 12 GHz band.

Inquiry comes at time when debate over flexible use of the 12 GHz has raged

There has been considerable debate on whether 5G operations can be shared on the 12 GHz spectrum with satellite service providers. Executives at OneWeb argued at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event that mobile use of the 12 GHz band would “wipe out” the relatively weak satellite signals.

A study published in 2021 by consultancy RKF Engineering Solutions, however, found that the coexistence of 5G and satellite operations in the 12 GHz band was readily achievable, with less than 1 percent of satellite operations being interrupted by terrestrial broadband.

Satellite broadband service provider Starlink  refuted the study , claiming that it is a “fatally flawed” analysis that washes over the interference consequences that will allegedly happen if spectrum is shared with 5G operations. According to Starlink, the study assumes that 5G build-out will only occur in urban areas and disregards the interference suffered by satellite terminals on the ground.

Pressure on the FCC continues to increase as industry advocacy group 5G for 12 GHz Coalition with its 36 members argues for the inclusion of the next generation wireless technology into the expansion of the 12 GHz band.

Backlash against expanding into 12.7 GHz Band 

Other satellite companies, however, are skeptical of the expansion into the 12.7 band that the NOI proposes.

Canada-based satellite provider  Kepler Communications told the commission that increased terrestrial use of the 12.7 GHz band may be unworkable as it raises the risk of interference to the adjacent 12 GHz band.

IntelSat, a multinational satellite service provider, said the 12.7 GHz band shares more technical characteristics with millimeter wave frequencies, which have limited utility for terrestrial mobile broadband, than true mid-band frequencies in the 3 – 6 GHz range. It claimed that the band would not be suitable for mobile broadband uses and would simply interfere with the “highly valuable” fixed satellite services operations currently using the band.

Eutelsat satellite network urged the commission to adopt rules that expand satellite access to the 12.7 GHz band rather than introducing potentially interfering mobile broadband operations in its comments.

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12 Days of Broadband

High Demand for Spectrum Necessitates Increased Cooperation and New Sharing Programs

The FCC licensed a significant amount of the limited available spectrum before its authority to do was set to expire.

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Graphic courtesy of TechHive

From the 12 Days of Broadband:

No matter the year, issues of radiofrequency spectrum is an important topic because of the crucial importance of wireless transmission in modern internet connectivity.

The year 2022 saw many carve-outs of the already limited unlicensed spectrum to tackle growing demand for connections and to relieve congestions on existing frequencies.

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