C-Band plan prompts new round of concerns

satellite tower (Pixabay)
NPR says no alternatives to C-Band satellite delivery are workable for public radio programming and emergency alerting. (Pixabay)

Those with a vested interest in C-Band spectrum, which is being eyed for terrestrial wireless use, continue to cite concerns about harmful interference if the FCC decides to change the rules.

Comcast and NPR are two of the more recent entities to reiterate concerns with the FCC. In separate meetings and filings, they're talking about the central role that C-Band spectrum plays in their distribution networks.

NPR executives who met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on June 5 discussed concerns about possible changes to the commission’s rules regarding the use and licensing of C-Band spectrum—the 3.7-4.2 GHz band—on which the public radio system depends for reliable distribution of programming to the 475+ public radio earth station downlinks.

They also explained that sharing of individual C-Band frequencies with commercial wireless services can’t be accomplished without causing harmful interference.

RELATED: FCC chairman ready to put 3.7-4.2 GHz on July agenda

“There is no panacea for the interference created by wireless mobile devices, whose roaming, dynamic signals cannot be coordinated with the fixed, low-power downlinks on which public radio stations depend,” NPR said in an ex parte filing (PDF), echoing previous statements (PDF). “Instead, opening up C-band frequencies for co-frequency sharing by wireless broadband devices will result in widespread interference that will disrupt public radio broadcasts and could significantly impair the PRSS [Public Radio Satellite System] as a reliable, cost-effective means of program distribution across the nation.”

NPR has recommended that the FCC subdivide the C-Band rather than enforce co-frequency sharing to ensure a portion for exclusive use of fixed satellite service without harmful interference. It also suggests reserving a portion of C-Band spectrum exclusively for PRSS.

For its part, Comcast says (PDF) it receives the majority of the primary signals of its cable channels via C-Band spectrum—about 84%—but it also has agreements with 11 programmers, in addition to NBCUniversal, to receive their primary content via fiber. In those situations, the programmers continue to use C-Band for redundant delivery of the content to their systems.

Pai has said he will put the C-Band item on the FCC’s agenda for July 12, with the aim of making more intensive use of the 500 MHz of spectrum, including seeking additional input on making it available for commercial terrestrial use.