C-Band Alliance Pushes Marketplace Solution to Re-purposing Spectrum

The C-Band Alliance, comprising fixed satellite service operators, says its market-based proposal to negotiate secondary-market agreements for up to 200 MHz of C-band spectrum, is the win-win solution the FCC is looking for.

That came in its comments this week on the FCC's proposal for sharing the spectrum.

The FCC in July voted unanimously to find ways to open up the C-band spectrum (3.7-4.2 Ghz) for terrestrial wireless use, either all of the 500 MHz or some portion of it, and through either an incentive or capacity auction, a market mechanism where incumbents voluntarily strike deals to reduce their footprint, or some other means. 

The C-band is currently used for satellite delivery of cable and broadcast network programming to TV and radio stations, satellite radio services, and cable head-ends. The FCC wants to open it up to wireless broadband to help close the digital divide and promote 5G, both prime directives for the commission.

The new alliance, which comprises Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat--says it will strike secondary market deals for the spectrum within three years of an FCC decision.

It argues that secondary-market transactions are the only way to re-purpose the spectrum. "An FCC auction of mid-band spectrum could not take place until 2021-2022 or later. Litigation with current satellite operators could push that date much further into the future. By that time, the United States would be a small object in China’s 5G rear view mirror."

It also says they are in the best position to protect incumbents.

In its comments this week, the alliance said its approach is the fastest way to re-purpose spectrum, protects existing services, and is consistent with FCC statutory authority.

The alliance is on the same page as broadcast and cable clients when it comes to a proposal by another group--the Broadband Access Coalition--to allow point-to-multipoint (P2MP) operations in the C-band.

The alliance says claims the C-band is underutilized is bogus, and that to allow P2MP services would remove the necessary full-arc, full-spectrum protections that any sharing of the band must be predicated on.

Without that those protections, the satellite operators say they could not provide the uninterrupted distribution services broadcast and cable nets rely on to distribute their programming to stations and systems, a point broadcasters and cable operators have also made. The alliance also said trying to put 2MP ion the C-band was not necessary since there is "ample" alternative spectrum.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.