Skip to main content

DBS to FCC: Northpoint Could Hurt Our Signals

Direct-broadcast satellite companies late last month asked
the Federal Communications Commission to deny a petition for rulemaking by Northpoint
Technology, citing interference issues as their primary concern.

Northpoint had proposed that the FCC allow it to use the
same 12.2- to 12.7-gigahertz band of spectrum terrestrially that DBS companies already

Under the Northpoint plan, the terrestrial signals would be
sent from local towers at the northern part of a market -- hence, the name -- so as not to
cause interference with U.S. DBS signals, which are generally sent to dishes pointed

The plan was to allow DBS companies to integrate
local-broadcast signals from the terrestrial system using a second antenna, facing north.
And while DirecTv Inc.'s comments called Northpoint's service goals
"potentially beneficial," the DBS company said it would be premature to proceed
with a rulemaking.

"The introduction of new interference sources at 12
GHz simply should not occur until it is conclusively demonstrated that such sources will
not create unacceptable levels of interference to both existing and future DBS
operations," DirecTv said in its filing.

In reply comments filed last week, Northpoint said it takes
the threat of interference to DBS "very seriously," but it believes that
"the basic principles of DBS/terrestrial sharing are sound and have been empirically

In its comments, EchoStar Communications Corp. disputed
Northpoint's premise, based on initial testing, that DBS systems can accept
carrier-to-noise and carrier-to-interference levels as low as 4.8 decibels. Such levels
would intrude on the rain-fade margins that all DBS companies keep on hold to protect
their signals during inclement weather, EchoStar said.

Northpoint has proposed that noise levels be monitored
during changing weather conditions so that the power of its signals could be adjusted if
DBS rain-fade problems were imminent.

But PrimeStar Inc. said in its filing that Northpoint has
failed to provide details for implementing such an automatic monitoring system.

The DBS companies also called Northpoint's earlier
testing for possible DBS interference into question. They said the tests did not provide
real-world results because they were done only on Digital Satellite System and EchoStar
hardware in one location in rural Texas.