“Steady” release of C-band spectrum is better for 5G

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The prospects for C-band spectrum being released over the US by the C-Band Alliance (and Eutelsat) is constantly a hot topic. The CBA wants to auction 180 MHz of spectrum.

A timely report from analysts at Northern Sky Research (NSR) suggests that while the urgency to repurpose mid-band spectrum in the US is clear, but in order to optimise 5G deployments, it would be much better to have a transparent paced repurposing plan with increasing amounts of spectrum than releasing a large chunk of spectrum at once, forcing MNOs to spend big money on spectrum (rather than on infrastructure) and disrupting the entire C-Band Satcom ecosystem.

NSR says that the price likely to be achieved is uncertain and says that in Spain the price (per MHz pop) was $0.40, while in Spain it was just $0.06.

NSR says that in its own studies it believes “repurposing 100 MHz could be achieved without incorporating any additional satellite supply, only modifying ground stations (filters, moving channels to other frequencies, etc.). Consequently, this could be done fairly quickly in line with the C-Band Alliance’s plans. Going beyond that would require more complex measures.”

“One must bear in mind that the larger the segment of C-Band reassigned, the less effective it would be to launch additional satellites to compensate supply. If there is 300 MHz of C-Band left for Satellite services (200 MHz of the 500 MHz repurposed), each additional satellite would be able to compensate for ~14 TPEs (considering dual polarization and typical guard band between transponders),” says the NSR report.

“Repurposing 300 MHz (200 MHz stay for Satellite services), would not only mean that 60% of current available supply would become unusable (currently available supply would drop to ~140 TPEs while demand would stay at ~250 TPEs), but each new satellite launched could only compensate 10 TPEs. This means that 12 satellites would be required to ensure enough supply is available, which doesn’t seem feasible to procure and launch in the 36 months proposed by the C-Band Alliance. Consequently, repurposing 100 MHz in the next 18 months and another 100 MHz in the next 3 years seems to hit the right equilibrium between accelerating 5G deployments with today’s needs and protecting current C-Band users.”

The study continues: “After the initial 200 MHz proposed by the C-Band alliance has been repurposed and the planned additional Space assets have been deployed, repurposing another 200 MHz would necessitate the majority of data users to move to other architectures like HTS (which is happening naturally and operators would only need to accelerate this process) and upgrade Video equipment to be compatible with DVB-S2X and HEVC standards. The final piece of the puzzle is to implement a similar process to add filters and retrofit Earth Stations to work with the new frequencies assigned.”

“The C-Band Alliance’s proposal to repurpose 200 MHz in the next 36 months seems to be the right balance between accelerating 5G deployments with today’s needs and protecting current C-Band users. NSR also believes it is possible to repurpose additional portions of the band further down the road, applying the newest technologies and standards,” concludes the NSR report.


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