A March 29th letter from Ericsson to the FCC called on the US regulator to make the 3.7-4.2 GHz band available for mobile broadband. Moreover, Ericsson asked that the FCC moves “quickly” saying that the bandwidth “is of vital importance in fulfilling the goal of ensuring that adequate low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum is available for licensed, mobile terrestrial uses with a focus on 5G.”
Both Intelsat and SES have large investment and capacity positions over the US in C-band. Both satellite operators are amenable to seeing some spectrum freed up – but at a beneficial price to them. SES’ CEO Steve Collar, speaking last week at the SES Q1 results event, sought to downplay the market’s apparent enthusiasm for the financial benefits that could flow from releasing C-band capacity to 5G wireless operators. Collar stated that the freeing up of satellite C-band capacity becomes increasingly hard if more than 100 MHz was required, and had related costs that were “not trivial”.
Ericsson says that at least 100 MHz is needed “on a per carrier basis” in order to fulfil mobile broadband use. “As a first step to determining how much spectrum can be repurposed for commercial mobile broadband, we ask the Commission to survey the band… [in order to] identify the number of Earth stations that theoretically require protection.”
Ericsson in its letter, and using data from Lyngsat, says that “only 37 per cent of the C-band satellites have any significant transponder usage (10 or more, that is 7 out of 19 satellites). In many cases, the transponders are spread across the spectrum band, even though many of the blocks may be unused. This suggests there is an opportunity to better optimise spectrum use for 63 per cent of C-band satellites.”
“C-band transponder demand, and revenue generated from use of satellites using C-Band spectrum, is declining. Transponder equivalent (TPE) demand is expected to decline by 26 per cent over the 10-year period from 2017 through 2026,” argues Ericsson.
Collar seemingly disputes these Ericsson estimates, saying “It is not a well-known fact, but we are full in our video neighbourhoods in North America. There is zero megahertz available for any other applications or uses right now.”
Ericsson’s letter says: “In the long term, Ericsson would like to see the entire C-Band cleared for licensed mobile broadband use; however, we recognise that band segmentation may be necessary to ensure near-term access to the band. A primary goal for the Commission should be to ensure that multiple blocks of 100 MHz are available to support multiple operators’ use of the band.”