Dish declares 'win-win-win' for 12 GHz band

Dish Network
Dish, which is building out its own cloud-native, open RAN-based 5G network, uses the 12 GHz band for direct broadcast satellite (DBS) but also wants to use it for 5G. (Dish Network)

Dish Network has its sights set on the 12 GHz band for 5G, and it isn’t backing down, even in the face of some pretty stiff competition.

Here, the most prominent opponent in Dish’s path is SpaceX, led by multi-billionaire Elon Musk, and despite being slammed by the CEO, Dish insists it’s come up with a win-win-win for all those involved.

Dish, which is in the process of building out a cloud-native, open RAN-based 5G network, itself uses the 12 GHz band for direct broadcast satellite (DBS). Yet it says sharing with 5G in the band is feasible, and while it still wants to support the diminishing TV satellite business (DBS) business, it’s confident that sharing isn’t going to hurt those customers. Expert studies back this up, according to Dish.

Basically, Dish is of the belief that a lot of different stakeholders can use the 12 GHz band, but the rules need to be changed so that it can be used for two-way 5G terrestrial services rather than be impeded by current restrictions.  

“We want co-existence,” said Jeff Blum, EVP of External & Legislative Affairs at Dish. “We believe co-existence is possible. We want to protect our own satellite service.” Dish also has nothing against companies like SpaceX’s Starlink if they want to use 12 GHz. “We think it’s a win-win-win for everyone, including the public," he told Fierce.

However, SpaceX “has failed to respond to DISH’s expert studies. This means that SpaceX is seeking protection from 5G for a service that itself does not adequately protect DBS service, as it is required to do,” Dish told the FCC in a July 7 filing. It’s the most recent filing where Dish spells out its positions for the commission in a review that Dish started lobbying for years ago.

RELATED: SpaceX accuses MVDDS operators of 12 GHz band ‘take-over’ attempt

In addition, Dish, whose Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) service has seen “modest adoption,” accused SpaceX of running a sting operation whereby it used undercover “supposed shoppers” who inquired about subscribing to Dish’s MVDDS services and then attempted to elicit damaging statements from Dish’s customer service representatives. “But the scheme did not work,” Dish said.   

According to Dish, SpaceX, which has called Dish the “world’s largest spectrum hoarder,” complains that Dish is charging “up to $400” for MVDDS equipment and that apparently Dish only plans to deploy MVDDS service if customers themselves pay for the network infrastructure. Yet SpaceX’s own base station costs $500, and SpaceX is accepting payments for beta service that it doesn’t commit to actually offering. “In fact, DISH charges customers $300 for the MVDDS receive equipment, including installation, and $400 if an additional transmit site is needed,” Dish wrote.

Still, while saying it supports spectrum sharing, Dish also points out that non-geostationary satellite orbit fixed satellite service (NGSO FSS) operators don’t need the 12 GHz band – SpaceX, for one, has access to “an astounding 25,550 MHz of spectrum, of which 15,550 MHz is already licensed.” That means the 12 GHz band accounts for 2% of SpaceX’s total spectrum allotment, 3% of its already licensed spectrum and 6% of its licensed downlink spectrum alone, according to Dish.

As for all these acronyms that dominate the proceeding but typically don’t make it into mainstream reading material, Dish addressed those as well, in part to explain the relevance of its MVDDS licenses: “SpaceX notes that the term ‘MVDDS’ does not appear on DISH’s main website. ‘MVDDS’ is not a term that an ordinary consumer would use, just as she would not use ‘DBS’; so it is no surprise that the term does not appear on DISH’s website. The term ‘NGSO’ likewise does not appear on the Starlink site.”

Dish: No auction necessary

Importantly, Dish reiterates that no spectrum auction is necessary in this proceeding, as the spectrum already was awarded to licensees, like Dish, who paid for it years ago. Alternatively, commenters like T-Mobile have argued that a spectrum auction should be held so that others get a shot at it.

“Precedent shows that licenses have been modified in comparable circumstances without an auction, and that doing so here would be in the public interest,” Dish told the commission. “In the AWS-4 proceeding, for example, the Commission concluded that license modification was the ‘best and fastest method for bringing this spectrum to market,’ even where the modification would result in increased value for the licensee.”

Dish also advised the FCC to “resist the analogies with the C-band proceeding” attempted by some commenters. In that situation, the satellite companies didn’t want to continue to use all of the spectrum – “simply put, they wanted out,” according to Dish. Here, the existing licensees want to provide 5G services and the circumstances warrant a license modification rather than a “re-auction.”  

RELATED: T-Mobile snubs Dish again, this time over 12 GHz band

To further its argument, Dish points to comments by public interest groups saying that none of the three biggest mobile operators hold MVDDS licenses, so if the FCC truly wants to help Dish become a viable fourth competitor, then it’s in the country’s best interest that Dish gets access to plenty of spectrum to compete aggressively. According to these public interest organizations that back Dish, adding 500 megahertz of mid-band spectrum will enhance Dish’s chances of success.

While Dish is the largest holder of MVDDS licenses and RS Access is the second largest, Dish believes other parties will benefit from updated rules, according to Blum. That's why several trade associations, including the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), are for it.

“This is not just Dish” he said. “We think there’s a lot of constituents and the public that will benefit from updates to these rules.”

6G shows up

For good measure, Dish adds that the commission should consider the future for the 12 GHz band because it’s for 6G as well. 6G may only be in the research phase today, but it likely will arrive by the end of the decade, and 6G performance will be even more advanced than 5G.

By some estimates, 6G will be around 100 times faster than 5G, with speeds as fast as 1 terabyte per second, or 8,000 gigabits per second, which is the equivalent of downloading 142 hours of Netflix movies in that amount of time, the filing notes.