C-Band Alliance calls T-Mobile proposal for 3.7-4.2 GHz a delay tactic

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The deadline for reply comments in the FCC's 3.7-4.2 GHz proceeding is Dec. 11. (Pixabay)

The C-Band Alliance is defending its market-based proposal for freeing up 200 megahertz of midband spectrum, saying it’s the only means of making C-band downlink spectrum available for 5G soon enough for the U.S. to win the race to 5G.

In a new set of filings on Friday, the C-Band Alliance also slammed T-Mobile’s proposal for handling the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, known as the C-band, saying T-Mobile’s “convoluted proposal” would produce years of regulatory and legal challenges and only serve to delay the availability of C-band spectrum for use by its competitors.  

In October, T-Mobile proposed (PDF) that the commission consider a different market-based approach for the 3.7-4.2 GHz band that would involve auctioning spectrum in multiple phases, where satellite licensees would be the sellers and potential wireless providers would be the buyers. Notably, T-Mobile argued that its proposal would provide a sufficient amount of midband spectrum to meet the needs of mobile wireless broadband providers and allow both incumbents and taxpayers to share in auction-generated revenues. (Terrestrial wireless service providers have said that for optimal 5G performance, each operator should have access to 80-100 megahertz; the C-Band Alliance is offering only a total of 200 megahertz: 180 MHz for terrestrial 5G plus a 20 MHz guard band.)

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But the C-Band Alliance says both T-Mobile and Comcast are just trying to delay C-band 5G deployment for anticompetitive reasons.

RELATED: T-Mobile counters C-Band Alliance proposal with auction-based approach for 3.7-4.2 GHz

“Tellingly, only one commenter explicitly supported T-Mobile’s self-serving proposal,” the alliance wrote (PDF). “T-Mobile can’t have it both ways; either it welcomes competition to benefit consumer welfare, or it seeks to block rivals’ access to mid-band spectrum to the detriment of the United States in the race to 5G.”

As for Comcast, which receives video via the C-band for distribution to consumers, the alliance says nationwide 5G represents an existential threat to Comcast’s dominant market position for its in-home broadband services. Comcast, in an October filing (PDF), asserted that the C-Band Alliance’s plan raised more concerns than it addressed and that its “our way or the highway” approach ignores the fact that the FCC has a great deal of experience in addressing complex spectrum issues.

RELATED: C-Band Alliance reiterates 200 MHz is the ‘right number’ at 3.7-4.2 GHz

In its latest round of documents defending its plan, the C-Band Alliance reiterated that it’s committed to making sure that smaller regional and rural carriers have access to valuable midband spectrum for 5G. Toward that goal, the alliance proposes creating a block of spectrum solely for the use of smaller regional and rural carriers. The C-Band Alliance says it’s already actively engaged in conversations with those operators to “more fully understand their concerns.”

The C-Band Alliance was formed in October by the four leading global satellite operators: Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat. The alliance maintains that any economic benefit to entities entering into secondary market agreements for the midband spectrum is incidental to the goal of winning the race to 5G.

Interestingly, stakeholders in the 3.7-4.2 GHz proceeding have pointed out that the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) (PDF) raises a host of novel and complex issues that impact nearly every sector of the communications industry. Several organizations, including the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, American Cable Association, Competitive Carriers Association, the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, asked for an extension of time (PDF) to submit reply comments in response to the NPRM. The FCC granted that request last month, extending the deadline for reply comments to Dec. 11.

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