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Ergen to FCC: 12 GHz Is Ripe for 5G

5g artistic rendering
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Charlie Ergen and Elon Musk continue to battle at the FCC over how to divvy up the skies and FCC spectrum.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen and other company executives met with FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and the other FCC commissioners last week to update the commission on its 5G buildout status and try to quash any suggestion that opening up the 12 GHz satellite spectrum for more terrestrial 5G real estate threatened to interfere with Starlink's satellite broadband service.

That is according to FCC documents on a series of meetings July 12.

Starlink, which uses a ring of low-earth-orbit satellites to deliver broadband--including famously to Ukraine during the war with Russia--is owned by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

As part of the T-Mobile/Sprint Merger, T-Mobile sold  its prepaid wireless business to Dish and opened its network to Dish for a half dozen years to the company could become a legitimate wireless competitor since the merger was further concentrating the market.

Also: FCC Flooded with Nearly Identical Comments Opposing Opening 12 GHz

Ergen and company told the FCC that as of June 14, Dish was offering 5G to over 20% of the country.

On the 12 GHz front, it said that opening up 500 MHz of midband spectrum would not interfere with Starlink's customers and that Starlink was engaged in an "ongoing misinformation campaign" that was "both scientifically and logically flawed."

Dish said that Starlink's evidence of such interference is skewed because 1) it used a single case--Las Vegas--that had unique "topology and morphology" that could not be extrapolated nationwide; 2) it assumes "overdeployment" of 5G towers; and 3) it says the majority of receive terminals in Las Vegas would be in urban and suburban areas while at the same time having said Starlink is targeted to sparsely populated regions.

Ergen and the executives reminded the FCC that it, too, is a user of the satellite spectrum for its DBS service and has no interest in harming its own customers or anyone else's.

SpaceX has reminded the FCC that Dish was against sharing before it was for it (https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/file/download/DOC-5fe748dcf4800000-A.pdf?file_name=SpaceX%20Further%20Response%20to%20DISH%20re%20Peters%20Studies%20%20(3-18-22).pdf), and calls Dish's defense of sharing now a "bizarre" assertion proffered through "a series of convoluted arguments that misrepresent both the assumptions and conclusions of [SpaceX interference] studies." SpaceX says that Dish's submissions claiming "minimal" interference have been debunked.

Back in 2020, the FCC sought comment on whether and how to allow terrestrial use while protecting incumbent users. The FCC has been all for sharing spectrum to meet the 5G need and is expected to do so with the 12 GHz band as well. In January 2021 it did just that, voting unanimously to propose opening up that 500 GHz midband spectrum for unlicensed 5G use.

The band is currently used for DBS, fixed satellite service multichannel video and data service (MVDDS), like Starlink's broadband service. All are co-primary users, but DBS must be protected from interference. ■

John Eggerton
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.