CCA, CTIA urge FCC to deny Boeing’s request for satellite system

Boeing building (Boeing)
Image: Boeing

Both CTIA and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) are coming out against Boeing’s proposal to operate a non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) system in the 37.5-42, 47.2-50.2 and 50.4-51.4 GHz bands, saying it threatens spectrum for terrestrial 5G operators.

Boeing filed an application last summer with the FCC to launch and operate an NGSO fixed satellite service (FSS) system operating in low Earth orbit (LEO) in the 37.5-42.5 GHz, 47.2-50.2 and 50.4-52.4 GHz bands, collectively known as the V-Band. In so doing, it's putting its hat into the same ring as companies like OneWeb and SpaceX. 

The problem, according to CTIA and CCA, is that spectrum is already undergoing comprehensive review in the commission’s Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, where the rules and policies will serve as the cornerstone for 5G services.

“The Commission has yet to resolve the technical challenges it foresees with this valuable spectrum, and it makes little sense for the FCC to prematurely act on Boeing’s request until the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding is settled,” said Steven K. Berry, president and CEO of CCA, in a press release. “The FCC should deny Boeing’s request which would only further complicate the analysis of these bands and disadvantage competitive carriers and their consumers. This is a pure and simple ‘spectrum grab’ attempt that should be rejected.”

In its application, Boeing acknowledged that the proposed system would operate in the same V-band spectrum as 5G systems and said it believes technological advances make possible the sharing of spectrum. Plans call for the initial constellation to consist of 1,396 LEO satellites operating at an altitude of 1,200 kilometers and eventually growing to 2,956 NGSO FSS satellites.

CTIA said the sharing analysis that Boeing provided to support its argument that 5G systems will be protected relies upon restricting the density of usage by mobile broadband operators—a requirement that would eradicate the flexibility necessary for terrestrial providers to innovate in delivering services to the public. “The Commission should not permit Boeing to engage in an ‘end run’ around an ongoing rulemaking and speculatively reserved millimeter wave (mmW) spectrum without justification,” CTIA stated in its filing with the commission.

The CCA argues that allowing Boeing the freedom to operate a new NGSO system in the requested GHz bands would be counterproductive to assuaging the “spectrum crunch.”

“Boeing should not be allowed to ‘cut in line’ and gain access to this important 5G spectrum when data use and demand on mobile networks continue to increase exponentially,” Berry said in the statement. “I encourage the FCC to deny Boeing’s untimely application and to focus on the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding to resolve outstanding allocation, operational and sharing issues related to these valuable spectrum bands.”

CTIA further argues that by the time Boeing's system is fully deployed, it is expected that 5G services will have launched, with data rates 40 times faster than Boeing's system and with only one millisecond of latency—about 5% of what Boeing could theoretically achieve. CTIA asserts that Boeing's system will have a minimum system latency of more than 16 milliseconds, which is much greater than the latency in existing terrestrial networks.

RELATED: Boeing responds to ‘errors’ and ‘flawed assumptions’ about its proposed satellite system in 37/39 GHz band

Boeing recently filed correspondence with the FCC in order to correct what it deemed to be several foundational errors and significantly flawed assumptions that some commenters had made regarding its proposed satellite system. It attempted to address concerns brought up by the likes of T-Mobile, Samsung, CTIA, Straight Path Communications and Nokia.

Straight Path in particular has opposed Boeing’s plans, saying geostationary satellite orbit systems are about 100,000 times less efficient in providing broadband access than terrestrial systems and that terrestrial broadband will continue to expand its reach into areas where it wasn’t economically viable in the past. Last year, Straight Path said it was developing a 5G phased-array transceiver prototype in the 39 GHz band and it expected to complete its work within 12 to 18 months with hopes of using the prototype to demonstrate the viability of using 39 GHz for 5G services.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Dec. 2 to include CTIA's opposition.

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