Satellite, mobile industries still hashing out spectrum sharing for 5G

Some of the stakeholders involved in negotiations between the mobile and satellite industries provided a glimpse as to how those talks are going -- or rather, reiterated the fact that they are ongoing.

If FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has his way, the two industries will come up with a plan to co-exist before the FCC has to step in. After some pretty "direct" comments to the satellite industry on March 7, he also made it clear that "this is very much a two-way street," where the mobile industry needs to step up to the plate as well.

Wheeler made his latest comments at the start of the FCC's workshop on its Spectrum Frontiers Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and technological developments in millimeter wave bands. Some compare the pending release of millimeter wave spectrum to other seminal moves in wireless, such as when PCS was first auctioned in the 1990s, setting off a huge round of competition and funds flowing into the government's coffers.

Spectrum sharing that wasn't possible in lower frequencies may be possible in the millimeter wave space, but that's where the satellite and mobile industries collide. Satellite operators say they've made enormous investments on the basis of current rules, which don't authorize terrestrial mobile use, and they want protections in place, particularly at 28 GHz.

"I do think there's a solution," said Jennifer Manner, vice president of regulatory affairs at EchoStar, during a panel discussion that featured representatives from AT&T (NYSE: T), Public Knowledge, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), Straight Path and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

EchoStar has been talking with folks in the satellite and terrestrial industries, and a critical component of any solution must ensure that any existing fixed satellite service (FSS) gateways be protected and able to grow in terms of adding new antennas to satellites, Manner said.

Joan Marsh, vice president for federal regulatory at A&TT, said she appreciated the conversations that Satellite Industry Association (SIA) President Tom Stroup and others were willing to have when the NPRM came out. "We believe there are solutions that can be found here," she said.

She understands the satellite companies' need for protection of their existing gateway stations, and "what we're talking about … is a fairly easy lift on coordination, particularly compared to some of the things that we've done in other bands," such as WCS, where the coordination requirements were far more complicated. "Here we are trying to coordinate with something that is fixed, not moving – important -- and earth stations that number in the tens, not the hundreds. To me, that's something that we can manage."

More discussions will be required to figure out exactly what the perimeters are going to be --- any new mobile entrant would need to understand there's a perimeter around the existing earth stations that must be recognized to prevent interference, and that might be the size of about two football fields.

In a recent statement to FierceWirelessTech, Stroup said SIA and its members look forward to collaborating with terrestrial providers and regulators to "maximize the potential utility of 5G for all customers both here and abroad."

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