Satellite players make case against auctions for satellite earth station licensing

Satellite companies, including EchoStar, Hughes Network Systems, Alta Wireless, OneWeb, O3b, ViaSat, Inmarsat Mobile Networks and SES Americom are united in their quest to protect the 28 GHz band.

Representatives of the companies met last week with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's legal advisor Edward Smith, saying that auctions and secondary markets are not appropriate for satellite earth station licensing – which are exactly the ways mobile carriers have advocated for Fixed Satellite Services (FSS).

The satellite companies say earth stations do not need rights to large geographic areas to operate effectively or avoid adversely affecting upper microwave flexible use (UMFU) systems. They also say auctions of county-sized or larger areas would not allow earth station operators to effectively compete for 28 GHz spectrum.

"Spectrum usage requirements designed for terrestrial systems cannot be fairly applied to FSS networks," they told the FCC, noting that because FSS broadband operators are competitors to many potential UMFU licensees, these licensees are unlikely to lease spectrum to FSS earth station operators at all, much less on reasonable terms and conditions.

CTIA has said that the FCC's proposal to require 28 GHz satellite licensees to obtain primary rights via an auction or the secondary market is practical, reasonable and "entirely consistent with applicable laws." CTIA says that requiring 28 GHz satellite licensees to participate in an auction or the secondary market is an equitable way of addressing satellite licensees' interference concerns

In its June 9 filing with the commission, CTIA argues that prior to any new FSS earth station deployment in the millimeter wave bands, the new FSS entrant should coordinate with any affected terrestrial licensee. The terrestrial licensee should have a right of refusal of a new FSS system, so long as that refusal is based on technical analysis and its coordination efforts are made in good faith. "In other words, the terrestrial licensee cannot simply reject a request by a new FSS entrant without a reasoned, technical basis," CTIA said.  

The satellite players say sharing between UMFU and FSS is achievable, but their issue is protecting satellite receivers. Satellite receive beams vary in size and shape and the satellite will receive transmissions form all UMFU operations within its receive beam. While some level of energy transmitted up from the earth is not problematic, too much energy can blind the satellite.

They say the FCC must adopt reasonable restrictions on UMFU skyward emissions to ensure that satellite broadband service is not compromised.

Chairman Wheeler told the satellite industry at its annual leadership dinner in March that the FCC plans to act on the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding this summer, so time is short in coming to an agreement between the satellite and mobile industries. "I am convinced that terrestrial and satellite systems can work effectively together to share these bands, and both can flourish – a conviction reinforced by the fact that our defense agencies have found ways to accommodate sharing with commercial interests," he said at the time.

For more:
- see this EchoStar filing
- see this CTIA filing

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