Satellite Companies Form C-band Alliance to Create Spectrum for 5G

Satellite operators Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat recently teamed up to create the C-band Alliance (CBA) because they believe they can expedite making mid-band spectrum available for 5G services. The CBA said it could put a market-based proposal in place that can clear spectrum and protect existing C-band services in the 3,700 to 4,200 MHz frequency band at the same time.

The alliance has proposed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it work with the mobile industry directly to carve out spectrum for 5G instead of having a government-run auction.

OTA co-founder Bill Tolpegin will serve as the C-band alliance’s CEO. Forty-year media veteran Preston Padden will also be part of the CBA’s leadership group as head of advocacy and government relations.

“The CBA is the organization that will facilitate safely and efficiently clearing and repurposing C-band spectrum, speeding U.S. leadership in 5G deployment and innovation,” the organization said on its website. “The CBA will engage in secondary market-based transactions to expand use of the C-band. This will position service providers to deliver 5G services to consumers throughout America in cities and non-urban areas, unleashing meaningful economic growth.”

The satellite operator proposal the C-band Alliance brought to the FCC would create a framework to enable satellite operators to clear frequencies that would allow terrestrial mobile operators to access C-band, which would speed up next generation 5G services, according to the organization. The CBA also believes satellite operators understand the technical and operational details that will come out of clearing spectrum for joint-use with 5G wireless services—as well as how to address them.

The CBA’s market-based solution is expected to make part of the C-band downlink spectrum available approximately 18 to 36 months after the FCC adopts a Report and Order, which is faster than other regulatory approaches that have been suggested.

Although the CBA sees its proposal benefiting many, including the U.S. economy and American consumers, mobile service providers (who will able to obtain the right spectrum to deploy 5G services), people who live in rural areas and current C-band users (such as the media, data and the government), the idea of setting aside part of the C-band for wireless use has been met with some resistance. According to broadcasters, sharing the spectrum will not work and only create interference with their satellite-delivered program distribution systems. The FCC gave broadcasters until October 17 to register their satellite downlink Earth stations to get an accurate look at who’s using the band.

As the debate continues, the CBA is in the process of determining how big the guard band between the C-band signal dedicated to broadcast program distribution and that meant for mobile use should be. Initially, the organization told the FCC if released 100 MHz of spectrum, it would look for a 50 MHz guard band, according to Inside Towers. SES senior vice president Gerry Oberst stated the alliance was working to decrease that number through filters, a Low Noise Block down converter replacement and a power levels analysis so such large guard band would not be needed.

Even if the alliance managed to lower the size of the guard band, one would still be necessary since the signals are significantly more powerful in comparison to an Earth station’s reception, “from a signal that’s 22,000 miles in space,” Oberst stated.



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