TR Daily CTIA, Verizon Offer Mixed Views on Draft Satellite Licensing Order
Friday, November 13, 2020

CTIA, Verizon Offer Mixed Views on Draft Satellite Licensing Order

CTIA and Verizon Communications, Inc. have offered mixed views on a draft order that the FCC plans to consider at its meeting next Wednesday streamlining its satellite licensing rules by, among other things, establishing an optional unified licensing framework (TR Daily, Nov. 10).

In an ex parte filing in IB docket 18-314 reporting on teleconferences with advisers to FCC Commissioners and International Bureau staffers, CTIA said it "expressed its strong support for the decisions in the draft item not to adopt the proposed change to satellite Out-of-Band Emission (‘OOBE’) limits and to exclude Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (‘UMFUS’) bands from the new unified licensing rules. CTIA also reiterated its opposition to extending earth station buildout terms beyond the current one-year limit upon which the Commission explicitly conditioned its adoption of the carefully-crafted framework allowing for limited additional earth station siting in the UMFUS bands in its Spectrum Frontiers proceeding. Should the Commission move forward with loosening earth station buildout requirements, retention of the re-coordination requirement in the Draft Report and Order is imperative to limiting the potential chill on UMFUS buildout from earth stations that are authorized but never actually operational.

"Additionally, CTIA raised concerns that eliminating certain information requirements under the proposed new unified licensing framework and the proposed new earth station certification option would create difficulties for potentially affected parties to verify information provided during earth station coordination and to identify sources of interference, while also limiting Commission insight into satellite operations," the trade group added. "Further, extending the new unified licensing framework to earth stations in motion (‘ESIMs’) was not contemplated in the NPRM nor thoroughly addressed in the record, raising concerns under the Administrative Procedures Act (‘APA’). Finally, regarding the proposed elimination of the requirement to notify the Commission of ‘minor’ modifications, CTIA urged the Commission to continue requiring notification of any earth station modification that would change the power flux density (‘PFD’) contour of an earth station, whether to increase or decrease the area of a PFD contour, including any change in antenna height."

The filing continued, "Access to high-band spectrum is an important part of the United States’ overall 5G strategy, as a mix of low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum is necessary to realize the full potential of 5G. In the Spectrum Frontiers Orders, the Commission adopted carefully balanced rules providing for additional Fixed Satellite Service (‘FSS’) earth station siting within the UMFUS bands under very stringent limits to allow some flexibility to satellite interests without unduly impeding 5G deployment. Accordingly, the Commission should take particular care to ensure that its streamlining efforts do not inadvertently undermine the careful balance struck between the UMFUS and FSS operations."

In another ex parte filing reporting on meetings with Commissioner advisers and other staff, Verizon also had mixed views on the draft order.

"In particular, we stressed that the Draft Order correctly recognizes that the proposal to replace the out-of-band emissions (‘OOBE’) limits in Section 25.202(f) with an even less protective standard would put Part 30 Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (‘UMFUS’) operations at risk of increased interference that could thwart the deployment and operation of terrestrial 5G networks," Verizon said. "As Verizon has previously noted, the Section 25.202(f) OOBE limits for satellite services are much more lenient than terrestrial OOBE standards in the Commission’s rules because they permit significant OOBE into adjacent bands. If any changes were made to Section 25.202(f), it should be in the opposite direction—imposing more stringent OOBE limits. It should not be to adopt Recommendation ITU-R SM.1541-6, which is significantly less stringent at the band edge and would change the interference environment by providing less protection to terrestrial operations in the adjacent band. The Commission is right to abandon this proposal as reflected in the Draft Order."

The filing added that Verizon also "offered proposals to address several concerning issues in the Draft Order with a view towards balancing the Commission’s desire to streamline the Part 25 rules with its priority of encouraging and facilitating America’s continued leadership in 5G. The Commission only recently adopted rules that govern the sharing and interference environment between UMFUS and Fixed Satellite Service (‘FSS’) in various millimeter wave spectrum bands, and it should exercise extreme caution before making further changes to the Part 25 rules, especially modifications that pose an unnecessary risk to the deployment and operation of terrestrial 5G networks."

Verizon said the FCC "should modify the proposed re-coordination requirement to more accurately reflect the intent of the proposed rule" and "should revise the proposed unified licensing rule to explicitly exclude spectrum bands shared with UMFUS operations."

"The Commission should not extend the earth station certification option to spectrum bands shared with UMFUS operations," it added. "To the extent the Commission extends the earth station certification option to spectrum bands that are adjacent to UMFUS operations, it should make similar revisions to the final order as proposed with regard to the unified licensing structure."

Verizon also said that the FCC "should continue to require that earth station operators notify the Commission of any change in operations that would result in a change of the earth station’s PFD contour as well as changes in antenna height."

In another ex parte filing, Viasat, Inc. blasted CTIA’s submission.

"This proceeding aims to ‘greatly simplify the Commission’s licensing and regulation of satellite systems’ through reforms identified in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (‘NPRM’) issued by the Commission on November 15, 2018 [TR Daily, Nov. 15, 2018]. As a general matter, the proposed reforms are procedural in nature and would not impact the substantive regulation of Part 25 licensees—or their rights and obligations vis-à-vis terrestrial operators," Viasat argued.

"Nevertheless, CTIA attempts to use this proceeding to relitigate matters of substantive policy that have already been resolved in other proceedings," the company complained. "Worse, CTIA does so through an eleventh-hour filing made the same day the Sunshine Notice for this proceeding was issued—significantly constraining the ability of satellite operators to respond to CTIA’s new arguments. Given these constraints, Viasat focuses on two narrow issues: (i) CTIA’s improper attempt to ‘fundamentally alter the sharing regime with UMFUS’ and ‘the rights of UMFUS operators’ relative to satellite operators; and (ii) CTIA’s incorrect assertion that ESIMs are beyond the scope of this proceeding."

Viasat asked the FCC to reject what it said was an attempt by CTIA to use the proceeding to gain additional rights for terrestrial licensees. Viasat added that the draft item correctly treats ESIMs equally to other blanket-licensed earth stations.

In another filing, Hughes Network Systems LLC, Viasat, and Inmarsat, Inc. said that while they "support eliminating notification requirements for minor changes, annual reports, and longer build-out timeframe for individually licensed earth stations," they "do not support the draft order’s requirement of re-coordination of these earth stations if they have not completed their build-out within one year. This requirement undermines any certainty that would be provided by the rule changes. Accordingly, the GSO Operators urge the Commission to revise the re-coordination requirement for the final Report and Order and implement a notification process to reduce burdens on satellite operators while ensuring Upper Microwave Flexible Use Services (‘UMFUS’) have timely and accurate information."

In a filing reporting on phone calls with Commissioner advisers, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) said "recent filings addressing the proposed extension of build-out requirements for earth stations make clear that the record does not address many key questions about the potential ramifications of the rule. SpaceX therefore encouraged the Commission to consider this draft rule as part of a Further Notice so that the record can be more fully developed."

SpaceX added that it "appreciates the Commission's continuing efforts to streamline its satellite licensing rules. But with regard to the draft rule extending the build-out period for earth stations, SpaceX is concerned that the record has not been fully developed, particularly whether the draft rule may lead to unintended consequences such as extensive spectrum warehousing and anti-competitive behavior. Specifically, the Commission's draft order would extend the build-out period for sites subject to the limitations in Section 25.136 imposed for the benefit of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (‘UMFUS’) licensees. It would allow satellite operators to complete construction more than one year after license grant so long as they re-coordinate each site with UMFUS operators at least a year in advance of commencing operations. While the record supporting this proposal has primarily focused on the need for more flexibility for geostationary orbit (‘GSO’) satellite systems, a non­geostationary orbit (‘NGSO’) satellite system operator recently raised a new proposal that the Commission scale back the re-coordination requirement." —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews SpectrumAllocation Satellites

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