FCC to US cable: “C-band Concerns will be addressed”

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FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has told US cable operators that their concerns over the potential reallocation of C-band satellite spectrum over the US are being listened to. However, he also warned: “The entire government oversight model for video services needs a complete overhaul from top to bottom.”

O’Rielly told delegates to a cable-sponsored conference (ACA Connects) on March 20th that any readjustment of spectrum would – if approved by the FCC – be accompanied by efforts to expand unlicensed services into the corresponding uplink satellite band at 6 GHz.

“I am well aware that the so-called C-band proceeding is of importance to ACA members.  You should know that this issue isn’t being considered to make your lives difficult, but because, simply put, there is near universal agreement that this is the best and largest swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G services.  I became a lead advocate for this reallocation because it became obvious, over two years ago, that there was a global shift towards mid-band spectrum for 5G networks.  Adding these frequencies to the adjacent 3.5 GHz band, and hopefully spectrum at 3.4 GHz, will provide the necessary foundation for 5G in the mid bands.”

“This spectrum, along with 5.9 GHz, provides the best chance to expand current Wi-Fi and other unlicensed operations,” he added. “If you don’t get greedy or seek unfair enrichment in the allocation, your concerns will have to be fully addressed,” O’Rielly told delegates.

O’Rielly stayed fairly neutral in his remarks and asked delegates to keep an open mind. “For instance, many have asked for greater specifics about how the ‘market-based’ or C-Band Alliance proposal can protect incumbents,” he stated. “Those details will have to be fleshed out if or when the commission moves forward with that or a similar approach.”

The C-Band Alliance, in their response to O’Rielly’s speech, says: “The entire video and broadcasting ecosystem in the US depends on C-band. More than 100 million US households and over 100 independent networks – an entire multibillion industry – rely upon C-band to bring radio and television to the American consumers, and the satellite operators have invested billions of dollars in the very important infrastructure serving them. It is simply impossible to move this entire traffic to terrestrial systems, and it would be irresponsible to disrupt or destroy it. We have therefore done a careful analysis, with many stakeholders – broadcasters, earth station operators, satellite, antenna and filter manufacturers, cable and mobile phone operators, regulators – to determine how much of the 500 MHz can be cleared for 5G use without harming broadcasting in the US. With a huge effort and heavy investments, based on newly launched satellites, tens of thousands of filters on earth stations, regroomed spectrum and protecting guard band, we conclude that 200 MHz is what can be delivered for 5G in 18 to 36 months from a final FCC order.”

“The remaining portion of the band is needed for broadcasting. The CBA proposal is by far the best and fastest way to clear C-band spectrum for the roll out of 5G in the US. All other proposals are technically unfeasible, unrealistic, legally impossible or far too slow, if not impossible to implement. It would, for example, be extremely difficult to deploy a solution that results in cities having more cleared spectrum than suburban and rural areas. The reason is that the C-band signals blanket the US ubiquitously, and cannot be ‘turned on or off’ in certain distinct zones. We are pleased that the FCC understands that complexity and supports our goal to protect the video ecosystem while clearing a good portion of the spectrum for 5G. We look forward to explaining the technology realities to all stakeholders so that everyone understands the challenge in clearing this spectrum and the unique advantages and benefits of the CBA solution.”


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