TR Daily Proponents of C-Band Market Proposal Defend Plan
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Proponents of C-Band Market Proposal Defend Plan

Proponents of the market-based proposal for freeing up 200 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 gigahertz band for terrestrial broadband services defended their plan today and criticized parties that have raised questions about it. But a cable company representative said that that it’s too early to say if the proposal is the best solution.

During an event this morning organized by the Information Technology Innovation Foundation, Preston Padden, executive vice president-advocacy & government relations for the C-Band Alliance (CBA), and Peter Pitsch, a consultant for Intel Corp. who helped develop the market-based framework, said that it represents the most streamlined way to repurpose the spectrum for 5G services and that critics are taking shots at the proposal for their own business reasons.

Some wireless industry entities say that more than the 200 MHz, including a 20-MHz guard band, proposed by the CBA should be freed up for terrestrial use in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, and they also cite other concerns about that plan. Some also have urged the FCC to use an incentive auction to make the 3.7-4.2 GHz band available.

For their part, satellite entities and customers that rely on their services say the Commission must ensure that their operations are protected in any attempt to find spectrum for terrestrial broadband operations.

Mr. Padden said the market-based framework is “the only way to promptly and efficiently” make spectrum in the band available to wireless carriers while protecting incumbents.

In response to critics that say 200 MHz is not enough, he said satellite operators in the band “are under no legal obligation to clear even 1 megahertz,” and he warned that any attempt to reclaim the spectrum involuntarily “would be met with at least a decade of litigation.”

He said the alliance arrived at the 200 MHz figure through an assessment by its members of how many additional satellites could be launched in their licensed orbital arcs. The remaining 300 MHz is needed for those operations, he said.

Mr. Padden also said that the alliance plans to send hundreds of certified letters to prospective bidders and that it would “make special accommodations” for rural wireless carriers and telcos. He said the CBA has met with the Competitive Carriers Association and did a webinar for its members.

“There is no other proposal that enjoys anywhere near this level of support in the record,” Mr. Padden said. He noted T-Mobile US, Inc.’s opposition and said the carrier “can’t hold 5G for America hostage while they pursue their second attempt to merge with Sprint.”

He also suggested that cable companies aren’t eager to have competition from terrestrial 5G providers and complained that a group of fixed-satellite service carriers with no U.S. customers or revenues is “trying to use the regulatory process to get a pay-off, and we don’t think they deserve that.”

Mr. Padden also urged the FCC to reject the Broadband Access Coalition’s plan to provide shared use of 300 MHz in the band for fixed point-to-multipoint (P2MP) operations.

“This situation cries out for a decentralized, bottom up, voluntary process that exploits incentives, exploits all the available information — in short a voluntary market-based approach,” said Mr. Pitsch.

In response to criticism that the market-based plan would result in a windfall for satellite operators, Messrs. Padden and Pitsch cited economic predictions that delaying repurposing of the spectrum would result in losses in societal benefits greater than revenues to the Treasury of auctioning the frequencies.

“Delay is enormously costly,” Mr. Pitsch said. “It is a huge misplaced concern. The key here is getting the spectrum in the market.”

Colleen King, vice president–regulatory affairs for Charter Communications, Inc., noted that her company has an interest in both deploying wireless services and in protecting the C-band for its video business.

“As a company with interests that kind of bridge both sides of this debate, we want the FCC to make sure that’s there’s really a fair outcome in this proceeding,” she said. She added that “we want to make sure that we don’t sacrifice getting it right in order to do it quickly.”

If the C-band spectrum goes to only two national wireless carriers “we don’t think that that’s a fair outcome,” Ms. King said.

She said Charter engineers don’t have the facts available to conclude that the CBA plan is the right solution. “We need more facts,” she said. “We don’t want to slow this proceeding down.”

Mr. Padden said the CBA is talking with stakeholders on rules the FCC should adopt in hopes of reaching a consensus.

The CBA is “trying to put together a politically correct solution that does not involve selling all the spectrum to one buyer, that recognizes the needs of the smaller rural companies to have access to this spectrum, and our hope would be to produce a result that everybody looks at and says, ‘You know what, that’s about as good and as fair as you can be in allocating this spectrum,’” he said.

He said that any consensus will hopefully include power levels, the band plan, and other matters and that discussions on such issues are underway with prospective bidders and the FCC.

“It would be ideal if … we can reach a consensus on as many as these issues as possible,” he said. “The FCC is the one that get to decide these issues and make the rules.”

Also today, Sens. Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) and Tom Udall (D., N.M.) wrote FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to urge the Commission to protect incumbents in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. “The FCC must ensure that necessary content delivery to American consumers is not harmed as a result of their policymaking,” the lawmakers said. “Due to the C-band operations’ extreme sensitivity and vulnerability to terrestrial interference, the FCC should consider the potential for harmful interference to incumbent operations that remain in the band while tailoring technical rules as necessary to avoid such interference.”

The National Association of Broadcasters, NCTA, the American Cable Association, and National Public Radio issued a joint statement thanking the senators for their letter. “Sens. Moran and Udall correctly recognize that more than 100 million Americans rely on C-band spectrum to receive the most popular news, entertainment and sports content on TV and radio. As new bands of airwaves for wireless services are considered, it is critically important that any changes to the C-Band spectrum fully protect incumbent users and consumers from harmful interference and service loss or interruptions,” the entities said.

Also today, ITIF released a report that recommends actions the FCC should take to make more mid-band spectrum available. Among other things, it spoke favorably of the CBA’s proposal, saying that it “would likely see spectrum repurposed much more quickly than with any of the alternatives.”

A news release noted that the report, which was authored by Doug Brake, ITIF’s director-broadband and spectrum policy, recommends “spectrum allocations where a single service supports a variety of applications, enables sharing between multiple end-users, and allow capacity to be dynamically adjusted between these uses” and encourages “private actors to internalize both the costs and benefits of what they choose to do with the rights to their spectrum.”

In other specific bands, the report says that the 6 GHz band should be opened up for unlicensed use, and that the FCC should attempt “to relocate outdated, narrow-purpose spectrum systems with the goal of enabling more general-use, spectrally efficient technologies.”

In the 3.5 GHz band, testing of spectrum access systems and environmental sensing capability systems should proceed, the report said, and in the L-band, it endorsed Ligado Networks LLC’s efforts to make use of the spectrum. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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