CTIA blasts satellite industry's complaints about 5G spectrum

As the FCC is poised to vote on Chairman Tom Wheeler's Spectrum Frontiers proposal on Thursday, CTIA blasted a number of claims coming from the satellite industry and reminded commissioners just how many times satellite companies have tried to launch operations in the past and epically failed.

In its filing with the commission, CTIA ticked off several examples of failed attempts, including Boeing's 1999 contract to build spy satellites for the U.S. government; that contract was canceled in 2005. Teledesic, the fantastical "Internet in the sky" endeavor that drew early backing from Craig McCaw, Bill Gates and Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Tatal, went through numerous delays but ultimately was abandoned in 2002. SkyBridge was designed to compete with Teledesic but was scrapped, and Boeing once again dropped its order for a new small satellite intended for communications and imaging services in 2015.

(In a separate filing that focused more on allegations by 28/39 GHz license holder Straight Path, Boeing did point out that it was heavily involved in the development of millimeter wave phased array technology as a contractor for the U.S. government, and satellite systems will, by their very nature, provide advanced communications services to all locations in the United States, including those rural areas that are historically difficult to cover terrestrially.)

The recent filings show there's no slowdown in the bickering between the satellite and terrestrial mobile industries. How that currently sits with the FCC chairman is unknown, but back in March, he told the satellite industry to explore sharing opportunities with the terrestrial industry – quickly and seriously. Later, in comments before an FCC workshop on the Spectrum Frontiers Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), he said it's "very much a two-way street," where the mobile industry needs to step up as well.

CTIA says the mobile industry did in fact step up, providing extensive technical documentation in support of a sharing regime. AT&T T (NYSE: T) Services, Nokia (NYSE:NOK), Samsung, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), T-Mobile US and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) submitted a series of technical filings that detailed interference modeling and simulations between terrestrial and satellite services in the millimeter wave spectrum.

CTIA says that despite the fact that satellite operations have only limited rights to use of this spectrum, both the commission in the Spectrum Frontiers NPRM and the wireless industry have made significant accommodations to satellite incumbents – above and beyond what they needed to do. Such efforts will enable continued satellite operation after Upper Microwave Flexible Use (UMFU) licenses are auctioned and services are deployed in the 28 GHz band.

However, satellite stakeholders continue to press the commission for even more accommodations. CTIA says the commission should "reject satellite interests' calls for preferential treatment by seeking free access to spectrum to provide broadband Internet access in competition with mobile wireless providers who will purchase rights at auction to use spectrum."

CITA says the protections proposed by the wireless industry in their proposed sharing framework represent significant concessions to the satellite industry, particularly in light of fixed satellite services (FSS) secondary status. Satellite players, however, want to be designated co-primary status.

Separately, CTIA also picked apart proposals by Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and others who are advocating for spectrum access systems (SASs) and related technologies to manage tiered sharing among licensees and general users, but it says such regulatory experiments will only introduce licensee uncertainty and undermine necessary investment and innovation in 5G. The SAS concept was first adopted for the 3.5 GHz band and has yet to be deployed in a real-world environment.

For more:
- see these two CTIA filings

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