TR Daily FCC Seeks Additional Views in 3.7-4.2 GHz Band Proceeding
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Friday, May 3, 2019

FCC Seeks Additional Views in 3.7-4.2 GHz Band Proceeding

The FCC’s International and Wireless Telecommunications bureaus today solicited additional comment on specific issues being considered in the agency’s 3.7-4.2 gigahertz band proceeding, including the enforceable interference protection rights of space station and receive-only earth station operators against co-primary terrestrial operations.

In a public notice released in GN docket 18-122 and Rulemakings 11791 and 11778, the bureaus also invited comment on “any other issues commenters wish to raise concerning proposals for enabling additional terrestrial use of the C-band.”

Comments are due 30 days after “Federal Register” publication and replies are due 15 days after that.

“What are the enforceable interference protection rights, if any, granted to space station operators against co-primary terrestrial operations?” the public notice asked. “Do those rights depend on the extent incumbent earth stations receive their transmissions within the United States? And what limits, if any, does section 316 of the Act place on the proposals raised by the Commission in the Notice or by the commenters in this docket?”

“The C-Band Alliance argues that C-band satellite space station operators with no U.S. customers and no U.S. revenues should not be compensated in the C-band transition process. In contrast, the small satellite operators argue that any transition plan must ‘[c]ompensate fairly all satellite operators with satellites authorized by the Commission to provide C-band service in the United States for the loss of valuable spectrum that they are currently authorized to use to offer services....’ Do the enforceable rights, if any, of space station operators depend on the extent incumbent earth stations receive their transmissions within the United States?” the bureaus asked. “For instance, do space station operators have a right to transmit free from harmful interference only where there are registered earth stations receiving their signal? Do they have a right to transmit free from harmful interference anywhere in the contiguous United States? Do they only have the right to transmit on a non-exclusive basis? Or do they have some broader right to preclude the Commission from adopting any policy that would impair their satellite service distribution business? To put it another way, to what extent are the enforceable rights of a space station operator dependent on, or derivative from, the rights of licensed or registered receive-only earth stations that receive that space station operator’s signal?

“We note that T-Mobile has suggested that, as a technical matter, new, flexible-use terrestrial operations would not suffer harmful interference from downlink signals but could cause harmful interference to licensed or registered receive-only earth stations in the band,” the bureaus noted. “Is this correct? If so, how should it impact our analysis given that new flexible-use operations could cause harmful interference to licensed or registered receive-only earth stations in the band?

“We note that section 316 of the Act gives the Commission authority to modify entire classes of station licenses by rulemaking or adjudication, but that this authority has been interpreted not to extend to any ‘fundamental change’ to the terms of a license. What obligations, if any, does section 316 of the Communications Act (or any other provision of the Act) impose on the Commission with respect to space station operators if the Commission were to authorize new terrestrial operations in the band under any of the proposals in the Notice or the record?” the public notice asked. “Does section 316 require that the Commission ensure the receipt of downlink transmissions where there are registered earth stations receiving a space station’s signal? Does section 316 require the availability of comparable facilities for such locations? Does section 316 create obligations in areas where there are no registered earth stations?”

“What are the enforceable interference protection rights granted to licensed or registered receive-only earth station operators against co-primary terrestrial operations?” the bureaus also asked. “What obligations does section 316 of the Act place on the Commission vis-à-vis licensed or registered receive-only earth station operators? Are registered receive-only earth station operators eligible to voluntarily relinquish their rights to protection from harmful interference in the reverse phase of an incentive auction because they qualify as ‘licenses’ under § 309(j)(8)(G)? Does the Commission have other statutory authorities that would enable it to authorize payments to such earth stations to induce them to modify or relocate their facilities?”

“We seek comment on whether licensed or registered receive-only earth stations have licensed spectrum usage rights, as defined in the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act). Section 309(j)(8)(G) of the Act, provides that the Commission ‘may encourage a licensee to relinquish voluntarily some or all of its licensed spectrum usage rights’ as part of an incentive auction. This provision, however, does not define the term ‘licensee’ or ‘licensed spectrum usage rights,’” the bureaus noted. “We note that section 3(53) of the Act defines ‘license’ as ‘that instrument of authorization required by [the Act] or the rules and regulations of the Commission made pursuant to [the Act], for the use or operation of apparatus for transmission of energy, or communications, or signals by radio, by whatever name the instrument may be designated by the Commission.’ The ‘transmission of energy... by radio,’ in turn, is defined to include ‘all instrumentalities, facilities, and services incidental to such transmission.’ In light of these and any other statutory provisions that may be relevant, how should the Commission interpret ‘licensed spectrum usage rights’ as it may apply to any of the proposals either advanced by the Commission in the Notice or raised in comments filed in this docket?”

“Does the Commission’s incentive auction authority allow it to structure a reverse auction in which satellite operators and licensed or registered receive-only earth station operators compete to relinquish their spectrum usage rights? What, if any, legal authority does the Commission have to structure an incentive auction that would award initial licenses for mobile operations in the band subject to protecting or reaching agreements with licensed or registered receive-only earth stations?” the bureaus asked. “For that matter, do non-U.S.-licensed space station operators granted market access meet the definition of licensees that have licensed spectrum usage rights that they could voluntarily relinquish in an incentive auction? If an incentive auction approach is unavailable, does the Commission have other statutory authorities that would enable it to authorize or require payments to licensed or registered receive-only earth stations to induce them to modify or relocate their facilities?”

In response to today’s public notice, the CBA said, “The Public Notice’s purpose is to increase clarity on several topics as the FCC continues its work on the C-band clearing proceeding. Clearly, interference protection of satellite services is a key consideration. We look forward to responding to the Commission’s inquiries and working cooperatively to build consensus from the many stakeholders involved. We are convinced – and have received significant support – that our proposal is the best suited way to achieve both protection of the incumbent services to millions of US television households and an efficient clearing of C-band spectrum to enable an accelerated deployment of 5G in the US.”

Meanwhile, in an ex parte filing yesterday reporting on meetings with FCC officials, content companies CBS Corp., Discovery, Inc., The Walt Disney Company, Fox Corp., and Univision Communications, Inc., stressed the importance of protecting the use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for video delivery.

In an attachment to the filing, the companies urged various technical safeguards to protect incumbent video operations.

“First and foremost, maintaining reliable video delivery requires keeping at least 300 MHz available for video downlinks in the repacked C-band. Thus, no more than 200 MHz (inclusive of guard band spectrum) should be repurposed,” they said.

“Protecting C-band downlinks from interference requires attention to multiple additional factors, including: (1) adopting a sufficient guard band between video downlinks and 5G transmissions; (2) setting reasonable power limits for 5G base stations and mobile units, so they don’t overwhelm reception of low-power satellite signals; (3) keeping out-of-band emissions to a minimum; and (4) ensuring that any filters to be installed on earth stations meet or exceed any assumed levels of RF Rejection,” the filing added.

They also urged the Commission to “abandon the proposal to allow fixed, point-to-multipoint transmissions in the repacked C-band, which would make a difficult spectrum management task impossible. Adding fixed point-to-multipoint transmissions would put video downlinks at risk and reduce the ability to clear spectrum for 5G mobile use.”

“Any repacking of C-band spectrum will be a risky and difficult task. We agree that there may be a productive role for a third-party administrator in facilitating a repacking. But with what is at stake, the FCC can’t afford to delegate ultimate enforcement and oversight of spectrum clearing and use to a private party,” the filing also stressed. “The FCC should incent the parties that stand to benefit from spectrum clearing to bring about a successful repacking that protects video downlinks. For example, the FCC could provide that companies selling spectrum rights wouldn’t receive those profits until after they’ve finished transitioning incumbents and have provided agreed-upon protections to video downlinks. Likewise, mobile users shouldn’t begin operations in a given market until the repacking process is successfully completed. And if new mobile or base station uses create interference, these carriers should have to stop operating unless and until they remedy that interference (e.g., by adjusting power levels).”

In another filing in the docket, the Innovation Defense Foundation expressed support for the Broadband Access Coalition’s fixed-wireless proposal. “Rearranging the C-band to utilize bandwidth more efficiently will attract innovators and entrepreneurs who are willing to make the necessary investments to bridge the broadband divide,” it said. “The IDF is pleased to support the Broadband Access Coalition’s proposal to allow fixed wireless broadband providers to share a portion of the C-band with earth stations.”- Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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