The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition is urging the FCC to take action by December 31, 2023, to expand the 12.2 GHz band for terrestrial fixed use, giving entities like Dish Network the ability to use the band for fixed wireless access (FWA).
Previously, the coalition had pressed for the 12.2 GHz band to be opened up for two-way mobile 5G services, but the FCC nixed that idea earlier this year. Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite service won that battle, with the FCC deciding to preserve the 12.2-12.7 GHz band for next-generation satellite broadband operations.
However, the FCC left open the idea of using the 12.2 GHz band for fixed wireless broadband, and that’s what the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition is pinning its hopes on.
The 12.2 GHz band is currently allocated to Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), non-geostationary orbit fixed satellite service (NGSO FSS) and fixed service. The coalition says updating the rules to allow higher powered, two-way terrestrial fixed wireless service will enable the spectrum to be put to its highest use.
Dish and RS Access, which are members of the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition along with about 33 other entities, are the biggest Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) licensees in the U.S. DBS and NGSO FSS customers that use a dish to receive service are unlikely to experience harmful interference from MVDDS terrestrial fixed operations, according to the coalition’s August 9 comments filed with the FCC.
“The coalition believes this proceeding can still represent a win-win for MVDDS and satellite providers if the commission repurposes the band for high-powered fixed wireless by relying on a spectrum sharing regime akin to the Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) in the 6 GHz band,” the coalition told the agency.
Several equipment manufacturers and providers already have indicated that they’re prepared to release or update two-way radio equipment that can be quickly deployed for fixed wireless use in the 12.2 GHz band, the coalition noted.
Fixed vs. mobile
One of the problems with the proposal to allow mobile communications in the lower 12 GHz band revolved around the fact that cell phones are mobile. However, the position of a fixed customer is known, lowering the risk of harmful interference.
“Doing fixed broadband is much, much easier than doing mobile. We believe the FCC should open up the band, update 20-year-old rules, increase competition and connect folks who don’t have broadband, including in Tribal areas,” said Jeff Blum, EVP of External and Legislative Affairs at Dish.
Blum told Fierce that unlike other spectrum matters, the FCC in this case has full authority to update the rules; it’s not affected by the lapse in the agency’s auction authority. “It’s just updating existing terrestrial licenses,” he said. “There’s no other spectrum that they could actually do. This is a low hanging fruit.”
The coalition also is making a case for the FCC to act now as states begin to implement their Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) proposals. Opening up the band provides another avenue to bring high-speed fixed wireless access to more Americans, according to the organization.
The 12 GHz band came up during Tuesday’s conference call where Dish and EchoStar discussed their plans to merge.
In general, Dish believes fixed wireless is part of its connectivity business, whether it’s through satellite or terrestrial wireless, said Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen. Dish owns licenses for the vast majority of the spectrum in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band and if the FCC were to allow FWA in the band, that would be a big benefit to consumers, he said.
John Swieringa, president and COO of Dish Wireless, said they have a lot on their plate right now in getting the retail postpaid business underway but fixed wireless is on the development road map.