Google Fiber, Nokia square off against SIA, NAB in 3.7-4.2 GHz band

spectrum tower (pixabay)
The Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition (FWCC) is calling for more efficient spectrum policies.

Google Fiber and Nokia are among the companies arguing for rules promoting more efficient use of spectrum, but satellite companies and their broadcast and content partners—including The Walt Disney Company and CBS Corporation—see the proposed changes as threats.

Last year, the Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition (FWCC) submitted a petition for rulemaking asking the FCC to approve a policy for what it calls a more efficient use of spectrum by eliminating a practice called “full-band, full-arc” where Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) earth stations coordinate across an entire frequency band and over an entire geostationary arc—a practice the FWCC sees as wasteful. 

Google Fiber, Nokia, the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), Federated Wireless, Mimosa Networks and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), among others, point out that the coordination issue FWCC identifies is just one source of inefficiency in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. Google Fiber argued the commission should not only consider the FWCC’s proposal but also broader modernization of its rules to allow more intensive use of the spectrum, according to the company’s Jan. 24 filing (PDF) with the FCC.

The internet service provider also pointed to a need to clean up the commission’s International Bureau Filing System (IBFS) database, which apparently includes entries for inactive licenses that could block access to available spectrum. Google noted that a preliminary audit by Engineers for the Integrity of Broadcast Auxiliary Services Spectrum (EIBASS) found that more than 200 licenses in Ka-band satellite uplinks either contained inaccurate location data or, based on satellite imagery, did not appear to correspond to an existing station.

RELATED: Google Fiber, Nokia throw support behind 3.7-4.2 GHz efforts for fixed wireless

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) said licensing of earth stations for the full band and full arc is necessary to ensure that high-cost, high-risk satellite networks can satisfy customer requirements and earn a return on their investment. Indeed, it’s also got the support of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and several content companies, including The Walt Disney Company, CBS Corporation, 21st Century Fox, Scripps Networks Interactive, Time Warner and Viacom, known collectively as the “content companies.”

“Elimination of the Commission’s long-standing and highly successful full-band, full-arc earth station licensing policy, as suggested by the FWCC Petition, would result in substantial harm to the C Band spectrum and thus to the American consumers that we serve,” the content companies wrote in a letter (PDF) to the FCC. “Because the very nature of video distribution requires that Content Companies have the flexibility to move to alternative satellite capacity and to coordinate their operational parameters—at times on short notice—the rigid licensing regime proposed by the FWCC Petition necessarily would have a negative impact on our operations and, ultimately, consumers’ ability to reliably enjoy world-class video programming.”

The NAB told the commission to reject the FWCC’s petition, saying that granting the petition would have serious ramifications for broadcasters and programmers. Hundreds of broadcast TV stations rely on FSS earth stations to receive network and other syndicated programming. In addition, transportable FSS uplink and downlink systems are used for broadcasting sporting events such as NFL and college football games, pro golf tournaments and entertainment events like the Academy Awards.

For its part, Nokia supports the FWCC petition for rulemaking and wants the commission to explore additional measures to facilitate greater terrestrial use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band while protecting the incumbent services. “The U.S. should discontinue granting satellite operators the right to force valuable spectrum, which they never intend to use, to lay fallow,” Nokia said in its filing.

Nokia is conducting tests with operators like Verizon Wireless to provide the type of service residential and commercial buildings traditionally received from wired broadband, but with a wireless network. “Fixed wireless service can become an alternative to fiber to the home to speed up deployments for last-mile broadband delivery,” Nokia said.   

The 3.7-4.2 GHz band has strong potential given its favorable propagation characteristics, which are similar to the 3.5 GHz band. That band also holds great potential for small cells; the 3.7-4.2 GHz range is just above the 3.55-3.7 GHz range. When combined, these bands can provide 650 MHz of continuous spectrum in the 3.5 GHz range that could enable extreme broadband delivery, Nokia said.

In addition, Nokia said the 3.55-4.2 GHz range, which combines the 3.5 GHz and 3.7-4.2 GHz bands, is also being considered in other regions of the world for 5G and has the potential to become a globally harmonized range. The European Commission last year published its 5G action plan, which mentioned that the 3.5 GHz band seems to offer high potential to become a strategic band for 5G launch in Europe. Japan and China are also considering the 3.5 GHz and 4 GHz ranges.