C-Band Alliance files band plan for 3.7-4.2 GHz

The C-Band Alliance argues that its proposal to clear 200 MHz of C-band spectrum remains the fastest, most efficient way to transition a substantial amount of midband spectrum to 5G. (Pixabay)

The C-Band Alliance (CBA) has filed a band plan with the FCC that describes how cleared C-band spectrum could be divided into blocks upon which wireless carriers could bid, paving the way for 5G midband spectrum.

The proposal, however, still doesn’t address one of the big problems that critics cite: proceeds to the U.S. Treasury for the sale of spectrum that was designated for satellite companies years ago. Citizens Against Government Waste is among several groups, including T-Mobile, that are urging the FCC to reject CBA’s proposal, which would vacate 200 megahertz of spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz in order to make way for 5G. 

But CBA’s filing (PDF) Tuesday sheds some light on CBA’s proposed band plan, which it insists is designed to be “competition friendly” and to facilitate a transparent auction open to all. Rural, regional and nationwide bidders will be encouraged to participate at auction, according to the group.

In an early tranche, the satellite operators propose to clear 60 (out of 180) MHz in 46 of the top Partial Economic Areas (PEAs), as well as a required 20 MHz guard band to protect existing C-band services from interference.

The early tranche excludes the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Denver PEAs, which are initially excluded due to the existence of sizable video operations centers that require additional care, according to CBA spokesman Markus Payer.

“We selected this group based upon an analysis of registered earth stations and reflecting the number of antennas that reasonably can be filtered in 18 months,” he said. “The second tranche will clear the remainder of the 180 MHz spectrum in the balance of the continental United States PEAs (i.e. 9 blocks of 20 MHz in the 360 PEAs not yet covered in the first tranche plus the remaining 6 blocks of 20 MHz in those 46 PEAs where 3 blocks of 20 MHz each have already been cleared in the first tranche). This creates a competition-friendly process open to all, smaller and larger, metropolitan and regional/ rural potential bidders.”

According to the alliance, its proposal embraces “consistent FCC oversight” of the entire auction and transition process and would get the job done in as little as 18 months (for the early tranche) from a final order from the FCC; clearing the entire 200 MHz would take 36 months from a final order.

The group said it has worked with customers, end users, manufacturers, potential 5G spectrum users and others to flesh out the many complex technical, operational and logistical issues related to clearing and transitioning the spectrum from satellite service to terrestrial 5G.

Currently, the four members of the CBA—Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat Communications and Telesat—use the C-band, which spans 500 megahertz, to provide services that ultimately deliver broadcast and audio content to millions of Americans. 

RELATED: CBA supports content companies’ requests for C-band safeguards

Last week, during a House subcommittee hearing on FCC accountability, lawmakers quizzed FCC commissioners on a range of topics, including the C-band.

“If you think you’re getting flak for not moving quick enough, watch how much flak you’d get if you let four foreign satellite companies keep all the money,” Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., told FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Article updated to correct the timeline for clearing the entire 200 MHz.