Inmarsat, O3b, SES throw support behind ViaSat calls for preserving status of space stations

Satellite companies are adding their support to ViaSat's assertions made earlier this month when it expressed concern about proposals to effectively make new mobile wireless operators the "gatekeepers" over satellite users of the 28 GHz band, signaling continued turmoil between the terrestrial mobile and satellite industries.

Inmarsat, SES Americom and O3b Limited are all throwing their support behind the analysis that ViaSat outlined in its July 1 letter to the FCC, whereby it "conclusively demonstrates that terrestrial wireless interests have blatantly and repeatedly mischaracterized the Commission decisions on which FSS [fixed satellite service] operators have reasonably depended in developing and deploying satellite networks using 28 GHz spectrum," wrote Karis A. Hastings, counsel for SES and O3b, in a July 7 filing.

Echoing ViaSat's comments, Hastings said the commission must protect the multi-billion dollar investments that have been made and are continuing to be made in the 28 GHz space stations and earth stations. "Such protections are crucial given the long lead-time associated with satellite projects, as the systems being built and launched today have been in the planning and construction stages for years and were begun well prior to the Commission's initiation of this rulemaking proceeding."

For its part, Inmarsat says it has invested $1.6 billion in its Global Xpress Ka-band satellite network, which provides commercial service in the United States using the 28 GHz band frequencies. It's concerned about the ability to deploy future earth stations in the 28 GHz band going forward. Inmarsat also said it supports the legal analysis that ViaSat has presented.

In its July 1 letter to the commission, ViaSat said a recent "tweet" by CTIA that includes a video by its President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker and wireless executives confirms the "unwillingness of the wireless industry to seriously embrace sharing" with the satellite industry. Specifically, ViaSat pointed to these quotes: "It's not time to experiment with spectrum sharing," and "It's incredibly important that the FCC relies [sic] on licensing mechanisms which are proven and trusted. The only trusted methods would be to use exclusive use licensed areas."

In light of these positions, ViaSat said, "it should be obvious that further discussions will not be productive until the two sides have a common understanding about the legitimate expectations of each service. It is against this backdrop that the satellite industry urged the Commission to step in and mediate any further technical sharing discussions with the wireless industry," ViaSat said, referring to a June 1 letter from the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) to the FCC.

ViaSat says the co-primary allocation to satellite at 28 GHz has not changed in 40-plus years, and that for over 20 years, the satellite industry has enjoyed licensing priority over mobile wireless at 28 GHz. It also says that contrary to CTIA assertions, LMDS service does not, and never did, include a mobile component. When the commission adopted service rules for LMDS in 1997, the rules were consistent with the designation of the 28 GHz band for licensing only a fixed terrestrial service, the company said.

In its June 17 letter, CTIA said the commission allocated the 27.5-28.35 GHz band in 1996 to terrestrial LMDS on a primary basis, with FSS secondary. Upper Microwave Flexible Use (UMFU) is an outgrowth of the commission's original primary fixed/mobile LMDS in this band, and thus retains primary rights, the association said.

"As the Commission stated when it adopted service rules for LMDS, this spectrum was allocated 'under . . . a broad and flexible service definition' with the intent of permitting mobile use of the band once technological developments supported it," CTIA said.

For more:
- see this SES/O3b filing
- see this Inmarsat filing

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