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Firm Disputes DBS, Northpoint Claims

WASHINGTON — The French parent of a U.S. wireless company has told federal regulators that both the direct-broadcast satellite industry and Northpoint Technology Ltd. have made inaccurate claims about the potential sharing of DBS spectrum.

Northpoint has lobbied the Federal Communications Commission for the free use of the DBS spectrum to launch a nationwide terrestrial service offering TV stations, cable networks and high-speed Internet access. It claims its DBS spectrum-sharing technology is unique and has been shown to work without harming satellite signals.

The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association — the DBS trade group that includes DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. — claims Northpoint's entry would cause interference ruinous to DBS' competitive threat to cable.

Were the FCC to decide to grant licenses, other companies have demanded that the agency conduct an auction rather than give the valuable resource to Northpoint for nothing.

MDS America, the American arm of Tallyers, France-based MDS International S.A.R.I, told the agency in an April 5 pleading that both sides were wrong.

The company said it has operated the same service proposed by Northpoint in Oman, Kazakhstan and New Zealand, sharing DBS and C-band frequencies without causing any harm to satellite providers.

"None of these installations has had interference problems with satellite services," MDS America said. "[We] have demonstrated this through real-world operations systems, not through an abstract paper war."

MDS America said Northpoint should not be given free spectrum based on claims that its technology has no substitute.

"Northpoint does not uniquely have a technology that allows non-interfering terrestrial use of the [DBS] band," MDS America said. "When this is understood, Northpoint's entire case for special treatment evaporates without a trace."

Late last year, the FCC said it was technically possible for Northpoint to share DBS spectrum, but added that it needed to adopt various service rules and decide whether to conduct an auction. Meanwhile, Congress ordered the FCC to hire an independent firm to test Northpoint's technology for interference.

Northpoint executive vice president Toni Bush said MDS International's claims were difficult to evaluate, because the company failed to submit its technology for testing.

"They have known about this proceeding for three years and this is the first time they have come forward," Bush said. "They have not provided any information in the record on which to evaluate their technology."

MDS America said it sold its first terrestrial system to the U.S. government in 1996 to provide video services to U.S. military personnel stationed in Oman on the Arabian Peninsula. The three-transmitter service was expanded to include radio and high-speed Internet access.

"When established, there was existing C-band satellite service in the area, with which MDS International's satellite system coexisted without any problem," MDS America said. In Auckland, New Zealand, MDS International operates a system within the DBS band, again without interfering with three overlapping satellites, the company said.

Northpoint claims it can avoid interfering with DBS signals because it beams signals only from the opposite direction. Although MDS International stations its transmitters in several locations, it claims it avoids DBS interference by generating less power than Northpoint's technology.

SBCA declined comment on MDS International's FCC filing.